The Oil Drum: Europe | Concentrating Solar Power

Ξ November 30th, 2007 | → 0 Comments | ∇ Science |

150 MW of parabolic trough CSP plant at Kramer Junction, California.

The statistics are quite startling. Every year, each square kilometre of hot desert receives solar energy equivalent to 1.5 million barrels of oil. Multiplying by the area of deserts worldwide, this is several hundred times the entire current energy consumption of the world. It has been calculated that, if it was covered with CSP plants, an area of hot desert of about 254 km x 254 km--less than 1% of the total area of such deserts - would produce as much electricity as is currently consumed by the whole world.

The cost of collecting solar thermal energy equivalent to one barrel of oil is about US$50 right now (already less than the current world price of oil) and is likely to come down to around US$20 in the future. The MED-CSP report, published in 2005, suggests that CSP will need public support for a time (like other renewable forms of energy) but that, with economies of scale and refinements in the technology, the cost of CSP electricity is then likely to tumble relative to more traditional sources of electricity. The TRANS-CSP report calculates that CSP is likely to become one of the cheapest sources of electricity in Europe, including the cost of transmission.

A report in Business Week (2006-02-14) quotes the CEO of Solel as saying "Our [CSP] technology is already competitive with electricity produced at natural-gas power plants in California". Similar claims are being made by others in the industry. Speaking about CSP at the Solar Power 2006 conference in California, the US venture capitalist Vinod Khosla said "...we are poised for breakaway growth - for explosive growth - not because we are cleaner [than coal-fired electricity] but because we are cheaper. We happen to be cleaner incidentally."


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