So what is this thing they call solar thermal electricity?
How does it come about and what is so good about the new generator plants being deployed?
At it’s simplest level, Concentrated Solar Thermal (CST) generators work by focusing the energy from the sun to make something absorb all the heat. This heat is generally used to turn water into steam and drive a turbine. There are a variety of ways this can be achieved using different combinations of reflectors and absorbers at different scales.
Solar thermal with Salt Storage. The heat is used to melt the salt, then the salt is stored and used to heat water into steam to power the turbine. This is how this kind of generation plant can maintain dispatchable, baseload power.
There are other websites with more detailed explanations for the engineering minded:
- Explanation of various technologies
- Beyond Zero Emissions: Description in Australian context of how a large number of plants would supply 60% of the national demand.
Australia is still getting started in joining this industry, but projects are running as of 2014.