Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) is where sunlight is converted to thermal energy to heat water. Lenses or mirrors are used to reflect and focus sunlight onto a receiver where the concentrated light is converted to heat. This thermal energy in turn produces electricity via a turbine or a heat engine connected to a generator.

CSP plants have the potential to be used as a baseload source of electricity, in much the same way as a nuclear or coal fired power plant, by storing the thermal energy before powering a generator. This means they have the ability to generate electricity even during overcast periods and while the sun is down.

There are several types of CSP technology:

  • Parabolic Trough: The most developed of CSP systems. They comprise parabolic reflectors that concentrate light into linear receivers. The latter contain a fluid which gets heated by sunlight, powering the generator.
  • Fresnel Reflectors: Flat mirror strips combine to concentrate sunlight onto tubes holding the liquid.
  • Dish Stirling: Large, standalone parabolas concentrate light into a small area. The receiver, containing the liquid, powers a Stirling engine when heated.
  • Solar Tower: Tracking reflectors point to a single tower. The latter contains a fluid which is used for heat generation.

According to the European Commission’s Institute for Energy, 0.3 % of the sunlight that shines on the Sahara and Middle Eastern deserts could supply all of Europe’s energy needs. Investing in such regions is crucial for diversifying our energy supplies for the future. Nur Energie is developing one such project called TuNur, a flagship 2GW solar export project in the Tunisian Sahara which will be connected to the European electricity grid via a dedicated cable. When the project comes online it will provide clean and reliable power to more than 2.5 million UK homes. Read more here.