Τhe largest solar thermal park in Greece is being planned in Florina, based on the innovative Stirling solar method. Solar thermal electric energy generation concentrates the light from the sun to create heat used to run a heat engine, which turns a generator to make electricity.
Photovoltaic, or PV energy conversion, on the other hand, directly converts the sun’s light into electricity. This means that solar panels are only effective during daylight hours because storing electricity is not a particularly efficient process.
The Stirling method was established in 1996 but has been used in only a few solar parks. The largest is based in Arizona in the United States with a power 1,5 MW, while the park in Florina is estimated to have 75.3 MW. The park received a funding of 45.55 million euros ($61.8 million) under the European program NER300, which subsidizes major energy projects in several European countries.
According to Helium, the Stirling Dish System is a solar thermal power generation source, typically consisting of parabolic dish with an engine (known as Stirling Engine) located at its focal point. The dish, which is made up of a reflecting surface, focuses the sunlight on to the engine. The engine contains a gas, and the intense heat from the focused sunlight causes the gas to heat up which is then cooled down.
The process of heating and cooling is repeated producing a high pressure gas which drives the pistons which in turn drive a generator. Usually the production ranges from 10kW to 25kW for a single unit but this could go up to megawatts in some cases.