Types of solar collectors for electric generation
Parabolic troughs, dishes and towers described in this section are used almost exclusively in solar power generating stations or for research purposes. The conversion efficiency of a solar collector is expressed as eta0 or η0.
This type of collector is generally used in solar power plants. A trough-shaped parabolic reflector is used to concentrate sunlight on an insulated tube (Dewar tube) or heat pipe, placed at the focal point, containing coolant which transfers heat from the collectors to the boilers in the power station.
 Parabolic dish
It is the most powerful type of collector which concentrates sunlight at a single, focal point, via one or more parabolic dishes — arranged in a similar fashion to a reflecting telescope focuses starlight, or a dish antenna focuses radio waves. This geometry may be used in solar furnaces and solar power plants.
There are two key phenomena to understand in order to comprehend the design of a parabolic dish. One is that the shape of a parabola is defined such that incoming rays which are parallel to the dish’s axis will be reflected toward the focus, no matter where on the dish they arrive. The second key is that the light rays from the sun arriving at the earth’s surface are almost completely parallel. So if dish can be aligned with its axis pointing at the sun, almost all of the incoming radiation will be reflected towards the focal point of the dish — most losses are due to imperfections in the parabolic shape and imperfect reflection.
Losses due to atmosphere between the dish and its focal point are minimal, as the dish is generally designed specifically to be small enough that this factor is insignificant on a clear, sunny day. Compare this though with some other designs, and you will see that this could be an important factor, and if the local weather is hazy, or foggy, it may reduce the efficiency of a parabolic dish significantly.
In some power plant designs, a stirling engine coupled to a dynamo, is placed at the focus of the dish, which absorbs the heat of the incident solar radiation, and converts it into electricity. See Knowing Parabolic Concentrators and Concentrating Solar power overview
 Power tower
A power tower is a large tower surrounded by small rotating (tracking) mirrors called heliostats. These mirrors align themselves and focus sunlight on the receiver at the top of tower, collected heat is transferred to a power station below.
 Solar pyramids
Another design is a pyramid shaped structure, which works by drawing in air, heating it with solar energy and moving it through turbines to generate electricity. Solar pyramids have been built in places like Australia. Currently India is building such pyramids.
- Very high temperatures reached. High temperatures are suitable for electricity generation using conventional methods like steam turbine or some direct high temperature chemical reaction.
- Good efficiency. By concentrating sunlight current systems can get better efficiency than simple solar cells.
- A larger area can be covered by using relatively inexpensive mirrors rather than using expensive solar cells.
- Concentrated light can be redirected to a suitable location via optical fiber cable. For example illuminating buildings, like here (Hybrid Solar Lighting).
- Concentrating systems require sun tracking to maintain Sunlight focus at the collector.
- Inability to provide power in diffused light conditions. Solar Cells are able to provide some output even if the sky becomes a little bit cloudy, but power output from concentrating systems drop drastically in cloudy conditions as diffused light cannot be concentrated passively.