The hottest advantage for CSP (Concentrating Solar Power) is the ability to store energy without the use of batteries. Traditional CSP uses mirrors to focus the photons from the sun onto a pipe filled with oil. Once heated, this oil is piped off to produce steam that generates electricity in the same fashion that traditional generators like coal, natural gas and nuclear generators use.
Where batteries use a chemical reaction to store energy, the actual heat from the oil that CSP produces can be stored in molten salt. Molten salt has the ability to retain the heat generated from CSP for hours after the sun goes down. Molten salt storage plants are not just a concept either, in fact, Abengoa Solar from Spain is building a 250MW CSP plant in Gila Bend, AZ approximately 70 miles southwest of Phoenix with the use of $1.45 Billion in government loan guarantees. The project uses 2 molten salt storage tanks to store heat after the sun goes down for up to six hours. 75% of the components of this system will be made in the USA. Stay tuned for updates on other storage technology for renewable energy.