Solar Thermal Power Generation Technologies

Solar Thermal Power systems use concentrated solar radiation as a high temperature energy source to produce electricity using thermal route. Since the average operating temperature of stationary non-concentrating collectors is low (max up to 1200C) as compared to the desirable input temperatures of heat engines (above 3000C), the concentrating collectors are used for such applications. These technologies are appropriate for applications where direct solar radiation is high. The mechanism of conversion of solar to electricity is fundamentally similar to the traditional thermal power plants except use of solar energy as source of heat.

Till now India has only one Solar Thermal Power plant installed generating 8.5 MW; but studies show that they have potential to produce 11,000 TWh of electricity every year. With an aim to harness such huge potential lying untapped the policy makers launched Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission in November 2009. It aims to produce 22000 MW of power through solar resource by 2022. India plans utility scale solar power generation plants through solar parks with dedicated infrastructure by state governments, among others, the governments of Gujarat and Rajasthan.

Opportunities for Solar Thermal Power Generation in India

Solar thermal power generation can play a significant important role in meeting the demand supply gap for electricity. Three types of applications are possible

  • Rural electrification using solar dish collector technology
  • Typically these dishes care of 10 to 25 kW capacity each and use striling engine for power generation. These can be developed for village level distributed generation by hybridizing them with biomass gasifier for hot air generation.
  • Integration of solar thermal power plants with existing industries such as paper, dairy or sugar industry, which has cogeneration units. Many industries have steam turbine sets for cogneration. These can be coupled with solar thermal power plants. Typically these units are of 5 to 250 MW capacities and can be coupled with solar thermal power plants. This approach will reduce the capital investment on steam turbines and associated power-house  infrastructure thus reducing the cost of generation of solar electricity
  • Integration of solar thermal power generation unit with existing coal thermal power plants. The study shows that savings of upto 24% is possible during periods of high insolation for feed water heating to 2410c.


Solar Thermal Power plants need detailed feasibility study and technology identification along with proper solar radiation resource assessment. The current status of international technology and its availability and financial and commercial feasibility in the context of India is not clear. The delays in finalizing technology for Mathania plant have created a negative impression about the technology.

Way Ahead

Solar Thermal Power generation technology is coming back as commercially viable technology in many parts of the world. India needs to take fresh initiative to assess the latest technology and its feasibility in the Indian context. These projects can avail benefits like CDM and considering the solar radiation levels in India these plants can be commercially viable in near future.

Mission Energy Foundation, a persistent, private, not-for-profit endeavour that strives to spread knowledge in the globalising energy sector; in strong support from Ministry of Power & Ministry of New & Renewable Energy is proud to announce the National Solar Energy Summit 2012 (NSES 2012). NSES 2012 is the most comprehensive summit that discusses the technology options, their current status and opportunities and challenges in developing solar thermal power plants in the context of India.

NSES 2012 is scheduled for 13th & 14th December 2012 at DSIIDC, I Floor, Baba Kharak Singh Marg, Connaught Place, New Delhi -110001.

NSES 2012 shall be developed under a strong leadership of an advisory board consisting energy experts from all topical areas. The mission is to gather solar leaders to share information on technology innovations and solution development for the deployment of thermal solar plants - a clean energy generation source.

Many sessions will offer continuing knowledge in resource assessment, technological appropriateness, economic feasibility, venture capital investment, solar energy policy and solar business models to grow solar thermal plants across the country.

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