What is CSP?

By Jennifer Muirhead, CSP Today


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Published in:

Energy Efficiency Made Simple Vol III: Energy and enviroFiciency
November 2012 - Chapter 8: pages 107 – 108

Enquiries: email jmuirhead@csptoday.com


Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) (also called Concentrated Solar Thermal) uses mirrors or lenses to focus direct sunlight onto a small area. This focused light energy produces heat that is then used to drive a heat generator (typically a steam turbine) that is connected to an electrical power generator. In this way, CSP is able to produce electricity that can be fed onto a country’s national energy grid. CSP can also be used in off-grid applications for thermal and heating purposes, such as those used in the mining processes.

There are four major CSP technologies: Parabolic Trough, Fresnel, Power Tower and Dish. The technologies are constantly under research and development as developers seek to make CSP cost-competitive to existing fossil fuel supplies. CSP needs good levels of Direct Normal Irradiation (DNI), which refers to the amount of solar radiation per unit of area coming in a straight line from the sun. The DNI can be affected by a number of factors including clouds, dust and pollution.

CSP is particularly suited for the market in South Africa because of its ability to store energy for release after daylight hours, unlike PV and other renewable energy sources.


Take note

  • CSP will not only contribute to supplying the country with much needed electricity, but there is great potential for the development of related manufacturing industries.
  • Despite the favourable conditions for CSP, in the first round of bidding, the South African government only allocated CSP technology 200 MW of the 3 725 MW target; the next round of bidding takes place in May 2013.
  • Currently CSP is more expensive than other renewable energy source but intensive research and development is underway to develop more cost-effective CSP technology.