- Explain how a how a solar thermal plant produces heat and/or electricity.
- List advantages and disadvantages of solar thermal energy.
All solar energy is the result of nuclear reactions that occur in the core the sun 150,000,000 kilometers away. Humans have used solar energy for thousands of years to dry meat and grains.
Video 10.9.1 – Solar Thermal 101 (2:47)
You may have experimented with passive solar thermal energy in elementary school by making a hotdog cooker or solar oven. Though larger, the utility-scale versions of these are similar. In concentrated solar power plants, because there is a store of heated material, the plants can continue to generate electricity for many hours after the sun goes down. LINK
Advantages of Solar Thermal
1. It is carbon- and particulate-free.
2. In contrast to PV, solar thermal can continue making electricity for many hours after the sun goes down.
3. Solar thermal requires no fuel.
4. Maintenance is lower than with fossil fuel plants.
Disadvantages of Solar Thermal
1. It is limited to open desert areas.
2. Large areas of land are required.
3. Bird deaths do occur.
4. It is not cost-competitive with PV.
5. It requires water which often is not available in desert areas.
6. It has a high up-front capital cost but low operating cost.