Concentrated Solar Power to get major boost

Concentrated Solar Power, or CSP, is another possible technology to generate electricity from the sun. While it can store energy and thus provide electricity after the sun went down, the global current capacity is still around 5,000 MW, compared to solar PV’s being above 220,000 MW.

Currently, most of the CSP capacity is located in Spain, but this could change as to Climate Progress, China is willing to build 10,000 MW of CSP capacity within the next five years.

SolarReserve, the company that built the Crescent Dunes plant recently announced a deal with the Shenhua Group, the world’s largest coal provider, to build 1,000 megawatts of CSP with storage in China. And the country as a whole has plans to build some 10,000 megawatts of CSP in the next five years.

(…) Because of its built-in cheap, efficient storage, CSP — aka Solar Thermal Electric (STE) — has the ability to directly address the “variability” or “intermittency” problem that PV has when the sun isn’t shining. As a result, the 2014 STE Technology Roadmap from the International Energy Agency (IEA) concludes that while PV could generate 16 percent of the world’s electricity by 2050, as much as 11 percent could be generated by STE at the same time.

While both numbers look promising, they are most likely underestimated as the IEA has been notoriously underestimating the solar – and renewables – revolutions taking place.

Solar PV has seen its cost drop by 80 percent since 2008 thanks to a staggering boom of installed capacity. There were barely 40 GW installed in 2010. This year we shall break the 250 GW barrier. This is a fivefold increase in six years. Perhaps sixfold…

Concentrated Solar Power may see its price drop by 40 percent by 2020, bringing it much more narer to being competitive with fossil fuels but already cheaper than nuclear. As a result, an NGO had published a report that CSP could provide a quarter of global electricity by 2050… Back then, in 2009, its capacity was of less than 500 MW. Yes, it grew tenfold in six years…

What a contrast compared to Carbon Capture and Storage I was writing about last week ! Concentrated Solar Power will only get cheaper and is already making a difference in the United States, China and Spain, which has around 2,500 MW of installed capacity already.

I dream of a world where CSP plants will bring electricity at night to millions of people, solving the intermittency problem of the other solar technology. In this, batteries will also help, as well as biogas from wastewater treatment and waste to energy plants. The energy landscape of the future is not as monolithical as today’s and Concentrated Solar has its own role to play there. 

2 thoughts on “Concentrated Solar Power to get major boost”

  1. The intermittency issue is, as I said 10 years ago, generally overstated. It’s rare for it to be an overcast day with still air, and rarer still for it to be so across a whole country. So we just join up the solar and wind across countries and we’re set. We already have national grids where one plant powers up to cover another’s going down for maintenance, etc.

    What CSP is really useful for is that unlike PV, it doesn’t require rare earths. And that is shaping up to be a limiting factor on PV deployment.

  2. Thanks Kyle for your comment.

    I believe that you are right and that the situation is more complex than that. Sure there will be a lot of solar and a lot of wind, but we should not forget about other renewables such as biogas from waste treatment, geothermal, marine energies and storage. Batteries are seeing their prices drop and there are other technologies being developped.

    I shall reply to your email soon. Hopefully tomorrow or this weekend ! Welcome back ! 🙂

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