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Department of Energy Concentrating Solar Power Program

This solar thermal power plant located in the Mojave Desert in Kramer Junction, California, is one of nine such plants built in the 1980s. During operation, oil in the receiver tubes collects the concentrated solar energy as heat and is pumped to a power block (in background) for generating electricity. This solar dish-engine system is an electric generator that "burns" sunlight instead of gas or coal to produce electricity. The dish, a concentrator, is the primary solar component of the system, collecting the energy coming directly from the sun and concentrating it on a small area. A thermal receiver absorbs the concentrated beam of solar energy, converts it to heat, and transfers the heat to the engine/generator. (Credit: Sandia National Laboratories) The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) researches and develops a clean, large-scale solar thermal technology known as concentrating solar power (CSP). This research and development focuses on three types of CSP technologies: trough systems, dish/engine systems, and power towers. These technologies are used in CSP plants that use different kinds of mirror configurations to convert the sun's energy into high-temperature heat. The heat energy is then used to generate electricity in a steam generator.


Concentrating solar power technologies, including parabolic troughs, power towers, and dish/engines, have the potential to provide the world with tens of thousands of megawatts of clean, renewable, and cost-competitive power beginning in the next few years. The U.S. Department of Energy administers the Concentrating Solar Power Program through two of its national laboratories:— Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado.

Kramer Junction Solar Power Plants

The Kramer Junction Company (KJC) is the Managing General Partner of the five 30-megawatt solar thermal electric generating facilities located in the Mojave Desert at Kramer Junction, California. The designed total combined output of the plants was to be approximately 165 Megawatts at full capacity. Together with its wholly owned subsidiary, KJC Operating Company, KJC operates and manages these facilities (SEGS III - VII). The Kramer Junction Solar Electric Generating System (SEGS) projects are a series of utility-scale solar thermal electric power plants, which were designed and developed in the mid-1980's by LUZ Industries. Solel Solar Systems has improved the efficiency of the HCE technology significantly over the last few years. The plants operate on solar driven power, and to ensure uninterrupted power during peak demand periods, cloudy days or early evenings, an auxiliary natural gas-fired heater is available and operates to supplement sources of power (the energy supplied by natural gas is limited by regulations to 25 percent of the total effective annual plant energy input). Operations are constantly monitored and optimized by customized computer controls.

Solar Furnace in France

The Solar Furnace at Odeillo Font-Romeu in the French Pyrenees is the world's largest and most powerful solar furnace (1000 kW). Each little square is a heliostat tracking the sun's light and reflecting it onto a large mirror.

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