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Solar Power Question: What is a collector field?

Answer: If we install numerous troughs in parallel rows, we have what's known as a collector field. The field is typically aligned on a north-south axis, which allows the troughs to track the sun from east to west during the day. This ensures that the sunlight is continuously focused on the receiver pipes and that electrical output is highest in the summer months when it is needed most. Trough systems with thermal storage capabilities can also store thermal energy for electricity generation later in the evening. The largest trough systems operating today generate about 80 megawatts of electricity (for comparison, a 5- to 15-kilowatt system can provide most of the power needs of an average U.S. home), however, it may be possible to build plants as large as 400 megawatts which can greatly reduce the cost of delivered energy.

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