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Parabolic dish concentrators are individual units that have a motor-generator mounted at the focal point of the reflector. The motor-generator unit can be based on a Stirling engine or a small gas turbine. As with all solar concentrating systems, the motor-generator can also be powered by fuel in order to provide fixed capacity at all times (dual operation).
As with other concentrated solar power technologies, parabolic dish units represent one of the cleanest options for power generation. Overall greenhouse gases emissions are marginal.
Solar dishes may become an important option to provide clean electric power at a very local level once investment costs have reached competitive levels. In this scenario, the technology may allow for the direct participation of local populations or organisations in the generation and provision of electric power, especially where power grids are neither accessible nor reliable. In this way, it may also contribute to the empowerment of people and communities.
Several prototypes have already been successfully tested. In the USA and Australia, large-scale projects are already in the pipeline, which may lead to the market introduction of proven technologies1.
The capital costs of parabolic dishes are still very high. The costs of a single 25 kW unit can be around USD 220,000 USD, i.e. around USD 9,000 per kW. Companies that are investing in the development and commercialisation of the technology expect to reach significant cost reductions from mass production. Capital costs of around 2,000 USD per kW may be achievable in the medium term2.