Parabolic Trough

Solar Power Plant Engineering and Project Development



Austin, Texas

Parabolic Trough


What is a "Parabolic Trough"?

A parabolic trough is the heart of several components that make up a concentrated solar power plant.  The "solar farm" or array of parabolic troughs that provide the energy to produce clean power at a concentrated solar power plant are  curved mirrors that are designed to reflect the energy from the sunlight, onto a "Dewar Tube" that  runs the length of the parabolic trough's focal point.  A parabolic trough is typically constructed with either a coated silver or polished aluminum surface. 

Parabolic troughs are aligned on a north-south basis and they track or rotate throughout the day to follow the sun in order to keep the maximum amount of the sun's available energy concentrated on them.

Inside the Dewar Tube is a "heat transfer fluid" that absorbs the heat energy from the sun, which is then pumped from the Dewar Tube to a Heat Recovery Steam Generator, where the heat energy is converted into steam, which then drives one or more steam turbines, which is connected to a synchronous generator, which then generates electricity and is sent to the electric grid. 

The temperature of the heat transfer fluid quickly reaches 750 degrees as the sun's energy is captured by the parabolic troughs.  The overall process is very economical and thermal efficiency ranges from about 60% to as high as 80%.

What is Concentrated Solar Power?

Concentrated Solar Power plants or "CSP" plants, generate electric power by converting the sun's energy into high-temperature heat using various mirror configurations. The heat is then channeled through a conventional generator. The plants consist of two parts: one that collects solar energy and converts it to heat, and another that converts heat energy to electricity.

Concentrated solar power systems can be sized for village power (10 kilowatts) or grid-connected applications (up to 100 megawatts). Some CSP systems use thermal storage during cloudy periods or at night. Others can be combined with natural gas and the resulting hybrid power plants provide high-value, dispatchable power. These attributes, along with world record solar-to-electric conversion efficiencies, make concentrated solar power an attractive renewable energy option in the Southwest and other sunbelt regions worldwide.

Concentrated Solar Power is one of the Few "Superior" Renewable Energy Technologies

Concentrated solar power plants use the high annual solar irradiance of the geographic location to generate "carbon free energy" and "pollution free power."

For generating power after the sun sets, many owners/developers of concentrated solar power plants are now installing "Molten Salt Storage" systems that reserves enough energy to allow for electricity generation throughout the nighttime period.  

Steam turbines and gas turbines powered by coal, uranium, oil and natural gas are the fuels used today for generating power and electric grid stability.  These fuels provide both base-load and peak power.  However, these same steam turbines can also be powered by the high temperature heat from concentrated solar power plants. 

Concentrated solar power plants in the 30 MW - 200 MW range are now operating successfully in locations from California to Europe.  Nearly every day now, new concentrated solar power plants are being planned for construction.  The concentrating solar collectors are very efficient and they also completely replace the fossil fuels that were used in traditional power plants.  Today's concentrated solar power plants generate the heat needed to generate electricity at a cost equivalent to $50 - $60 per barrel of oil (equivalent).  This cost is expected be slashed by 50% to below $25 - $30 per barrel in the next 10 years. 

Just like conventional fossil-fueled power plants, concentrated solar power plants generate  base-load and peaking power electricity.

Just like fossil fuel fired conventional power plants, concentrated solar power plants have an availability that is close to 100 %, but without the carbon emissions, carbon dioxide emissions, hazardous air pollutants, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and greenhouse gas emissions that fossil fuel power plants emit.

A concentrated solar power plant with a molten salt storage facility for full load operation during the nighttime period is currently being built in Nevada.  This concentrated solar power plant will generate 50 MW of power.


All the Electricity the World Needs With Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions
from Concentrated Solar Power Plants Using a Very Small Part of the Desert

In the map below, the larger red square on the left shows an area of hot desert that, if covered with concentrated solar power plants, 
would produce as much electricity as the world currently uses. The smaller square shows a corresponding area for providing all of the 
power needed by the European Union.


The map and information above courtesy of

The Following Press Release Re-printed with Permission from The World Bank

Over $5.5 billion in New Investment for Clean Energy Technology in the Middle East and North Africa Region

Washington, D.C.,  December 1, 2009 -  Concentrated Solar Power project financing in the amount of $750 million was issued on December 2, 2009, and will mobilize an additional $4.85 billion from other sources, to accelerate global deployment of Concentrated Solar Power (CSP). It will do so by investing in the CSP programs of five countries in the Middle East and North Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia. The CTF is a multi-donor trust fund to facilitate deployment of low-carbon technologies at scale. Specifically, the CTF approved an investment plan which will:

The proposed gigawatt-scale deployment through 11 commercial-scale power plants over a 3-5 year time-frame would provide the critical mass of investments necessary to attract significant private sector interest, benefit from economies of scale to reduce cost, result in learning in diverse operating conditions, and manage risk.

Officials stated "This is a most strategic and significant initiative for MENA countries. The initiative would leverage energy diversification, while promoting Euro-Mediterranean integration to the benefit of MENA countries that will be able to exploit one of the major untapped sources of energy. This endeavor is far-reaching with global objectives, implications, and potential impact. It will facilitate faster and greater diffusion of this technology in this region which holds significant potential for CSP".

Potential for Green House Gas (GHG) reduction: The proposed projects will avoid about 1.7 million tons of carbon dioxide per year from the energy sectors of the countries. If the program is successful and replicated, the global benefits will be far larger. The transformational objective of this investment plan is served by accelerating cost reduction for a technology that could become least-cost globally, and then be replicated in other countries with high GHG emissions.

Expected Results from the Investment plan: The results indicators for the investment plan are:

§ GHG reductions of at least 1.7 million tons of CO2-equivalent per year.

§ Approximately 900 MW of installed CSP capacity by 2020.

§ $4.85 billion of co-financing mobilized, including sufficient financing to ensure viability of CSP plants.

§ Cost of typical solar field in US$ per m2 is expected to decline over the life of the program.

What is Balance of System?

In solar power plants, balance of system or "BOS," refers to the equipment and components of the solar power plant other than the parabolic trough or solar photovoltaic panels, consisting of the remaining components that make-up the entire solar power plant.  Therefore, the balance of system would include; inverters, switches, support racks, wiring and the batteries/battery energy storage system and molten salt storage if installed in the case of concentrated solar power plants. Land is sometimes included as part of the solar power plant's balance of system.

What is Front End Engineering Design?

Front-end Engineering Design, also known as Front End Engineering  or "FEED," is the preliminary engineering and conceptual design completed in advance of the start of EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction).  Front End Engineering usually concludes with the engineering firm's presentation of an Engineering Feasibility Study or Analysis.

Front-end Engineering Design includes a design team that includes and integrates all or most engineering fields such as mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, environmental engineering, civil engineering, power engineering, chemical engineering, etc.  The FEED design team includes the project visualization and conceptualization stages, including "what-if" decision making analyses, integrating the client company's goals, objectives into an efficient and economic engineering solution.

Engineering, Procurement and Construction
(EPC) Contracts and Performance Guarantees

Balance of System  *  Engineering  *  Front-end Engineering Design  *  Molten Salt Storage

No-cost solar power engineering (preliminary) review and technology evaluation provided for new 
clients with a minimum project size of 3 MW and solar power plant located in the Southwest USA.

This includes CSP as well as solar PV, CPV and HCPV technologies.


Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Since the year 1750

World Carbon Dioxide Emissions since 1750 (cubic feet)

The carbon clock tracks total carbon dioxide emissions in metric tons since 1750.

Since 1750, humans have emitted over 5 trillion pounds of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Roughly half of this has ended up in the oceans where it is beginning to damage the coral reefs. The other half is still in the atmosphere and causing global warming. Each pound of CO2 takes up as much space as a 500 pound person.

The formula (which should be good for a year or two) is:
C(t) = 2.58 ×1012 + 1240×t, where t is seconds since the start of 2007.

C is tonnes (metric tons) of carbon dioxide emissions.
2205 x C gives pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.

That comes to over 43 billion tons/year or over 86 trillion pounds/year.

Carbon dioxide (2) = 1 carbon atom with 2 oxygen atoms.
Carbon has relative weight 12 and Oxygen 16.
So it takes only 12 pounds of carbon to make 12+16+16 = 44 pounds of CO2. 


Greenhouse Gas Emissions  
Linked to the Loss of Polar Bears

Photo courtesy of Alaska Image Library. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


Replacing the "brown" power generated from fossil fuel power plants with renewable energy power plants such as Concentrated Solar Power or HCPV solar power plants, not only generates green power, but eliminates Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Hazardous Air Pollutants, while reducing the Earth's Fever and imports of foreign oil!


American Energy Plan sm

3-5 million new jobs
Fuel Savings of > $1.50/gallon
American Energy Independence
Ends the worst economic depression of all time


Support America's Domestic Oil and Gas  
resources and companies




“spending hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars every year for oil, much of it from the Middle East, is just about the single stupidest thing that modern society could possibly do.  It’s very difficult to think of anything more idiotic than that.” ~ R. James Woolsey, Jr., former Director of the CIA

Price of Addiction
to Foreign Oil

According to R. James Woolsey, for Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, “The basic insight is to realize that global warming, the geopolitics of oil, and warfare in the Persian Gulf are not separate problems — they are aspects of a single problem, the West’s dependence on oil.”



Energy Investment Banking



"Concentrated Solar Power - The Technology That Will 
Save Humanity." ~ Dr. Joseph Romm


Solar Power now "Cheaper than Coal!" sm


Net Zero Energy Market to Become $1.4 Trillion/year Industry by 2035

Net Zero Energy Buildings Are Coming; 
What About The Buildings Already Standing?

The market for Distributed PV, also known as "Rooftop PV"
will be a $60 billion/year market by 2013!

About us

The Renewable Energy Institute advocates and supports clean power generation and renewable energy.  We provide advertising, business development, engineering, environmental assessments, investments, jobs, marketing, public relations, renewable energy consulting, renewable energy investments, sales, strategic marketing and a "durable competitive advantage" for companies seeking to dominate their competition. Some services through partner or 3rd party companies.

Engineering, Procurement and Construction 
(EPC) Contracts and Performance Guarantees


Parabolic Trough

Balance Of System  *  Concentrated PV  *  Concentrating Solar Power  *  Molten Salt Storage

Net Zero Energy  *  Parabolic Troughs  *  Power Purchase Agreement  Rooftop PV  *  Solar Cogeneration


"Changing the way the world makes and uses energy."

Austin, Texas






Parabolic Trough

Balance Of System  *  Concentrated PV  *  Concentrated Solar Power  *  Molten Salt Storage

Net Zero Energy  *  Parabolic Troughs  *  Power Purchase Agreement  Rooftop PV  *  Solar Cogeneration



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