For those new to solar, here’s what concentrating solar PV means: It refers to a way of generating solar power in which, through the use of lenses, concentrated sunlight falls on the solar panels, resulting in much higher efficiencies than otherwise.
Some folks around the world now wish to combine concentrated solar PV and solar thermal.
Why would they want to do this?
You see, when we use concentrating solar PV, a significant amount of heat is generated at the solar panels owing to the high sunlight concentration. Unless such high temperature is cooled, the solar panels also do not perform well.
Some new technologies are now attempting to solve this problem of very high temperatures being generated at solar panels by removing this heat by sending a fluid (in some cases water). The heated fluid, instead of wasted, can be used to generate power using emerging technologies such as Organic Rankine Cycle and Sterling Engine.
Thus, through the addition of solar thermal to CPV, not only are we cooling the solar panels, but in addition, we are also generating extra power!
While exciting, note however that such a hybrid is in its initial stages of development as of 2016 and has not been commercially employed on scale as yet.
I recall meeting, in 2014, an Italian company that had done some serious amount of work in this CPV-thermal combo. Their business case was quite simple. With conventional PV, you get efficiencies of about 20% at best. With CPV, you could get up to 40% at best. With CPV plus thermal, your efficiency could go as high as 80%. Interesting indeed.