Been spending few hours geeking about solar power.
There are 2 primary types: photovoltaic and solar thermal. Photovoltaic is the solar panels we are familiar with. i.e. a flat panel that turns sun ray into electricity directly. (e.g. on your calculator or house roof)
Solar thermal is using reflection to direct sun ray into a focal point, which turns into heat, and in turn generates electricity (usually by steam turbine).
Being a efficiency nerd, my question is, which type is more efficient at massive scale?
There are power plants using either types.
Photovoltaic is rather boring looking. You just have lots of flat panels on the ground. The reflection type is more sci-fi. (e.g. death star).
There are varieties of the reflection design. e.g. reflection parabolic troughs, that focus light into a line. The line is typically a thin oil pipe. This type is still boring to look at. You just have lots trough-like structures on the ground. Quite ugly too. Then there's arrays of flat mirrors on the ground that focus light into a high tower. Then there's giant parabolic dish ones — like a death star — the most eye-catching. See:
My question about efficiency probably involves too many factors to be specified before one could say “which is more efficient”, but anyone got some comments?