A Renewable Energy Type
There are two basic approaches for using solar energy to generate electricity. The first type, solar photovoltaic (PV) energy, uses semiconductors to convert sunlight into electricity. Crystalline silicon semiconductors are the most common type in use. The second approach is called concentrating solar power (CSP), also referred to as solar thermal. Basically, CSP uses mirrors to concentrate sunlight and generate steam, which is used to power a turbine. The most common method employed commercially is the parabolic trough, where the mirrors are horizontally disposed in a parabolic shape. Solar PV is more commonly used commercially because of high capital costs for building a CSP power plant. Solar PV has experienced rapid growth over the last ten years, increasing by more than twentyfold in the United States. Growth for CSP has increased threefold over the same ten years, but no growth over the last four years. Spain and the United States lead the world in commercial CSP plants.
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