An optimal performance analysis for an equivalent Carnot-like cycle heat engine of a parabolic-trough direct-steam-generation solar driven Rankine cycle power plant at maximum power and maximum power density conditions is performed. Simultaneous radiation-convection and only radiation heat transfer mechanisms from solar concentrating collector, which is the high temperature thermal reservoir, are considered separately. Heat rejection to the low temperature thermal reservoir is assumed to be convection dominated. Irreversibilities are taken into account through the finite-rate heat transfer between the fixed temperature thermal reservoirs and the internally reversible heat engine. Comparisons proved that the performance of a solar driven Carnot-like heat engine at maximum power density conditions, which receives thermal energy by either radiation-convection or only radiation heat transfer mechanism and rejects its unavailable portion to surroundings by convective heat transfer through heat exchangers, has the characteristics of (1) a solar driven Carnot heat engine at maximum power conditions, having radiation heat transfer at high and convective heat transfer at low temperature heat exchangers respectively, as the allocation parameter takes small values, and of (2) a Carnot heat engine at. maximum power density conditions, having convective heat transfer at both heat exchangers, as the allocation parameter takes large values. Comprehensive discussions on the effect of heat transfer mechanisms are provided. (c) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.