Concentrated Solar Power and photovoltaic panels - what's the difference?

PSA researcher Patricia Palenzuela Ardila on solar power
PSA researcher Patricia Palenzuela Ardila on solar power
By Andrea Bolitho

By 2020, a fifth of the energy used in the EU should be from renewable sources. Solar power is one of the main types - both photovoltaic panels and the lesser-known Concentrated Solar Power. But what's the difference between the two technologies and is one better than the other?

Researcher Patricia Palenzuela Ardila from CIEMAT-Plataforma Solar de Almería explains:

"Photovoltaic solar power does not need a thermal fluid - unlike Concentrated Solar Power, which has a power block to generate electricity via the turbines. PV produces electricity directly. The sunlight hits the photovoltaic panel and is converted directly to electricity through PV cells made of semiconductor materials.

"The advantage of CSP over photovoltaics is that it achieves greater plant capacity (produces proportionally more energy compared with its maximum output). To have a high capacity factor with photovoltaics you need a storage system that would have to be battery-based. But the problem with batteries is nowadays the cost is prohibitive. And there is no battery on the market right now that has a high enough capacity factor. A high capacity factor means many hours of operation. That means operating for the maximum number of hours during the day and night."

Journalist • Andrea Bolitho