Greenpeace International

Concentrating Solar Power Global Outlook 09 - Why renewable energy is hot

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Courtesy of Greenpeace International

What is CSP?

CSP (Concentrating Solar Power) systems produce heat or electricity using hundreds of mirrors to concentrate the sun’s rays to a temperature typically between 400 and 1000ºC. There are a variety of mirror shapes, sun-tracking methods and ways to provide useful energy, but they all work under the same principle. Individual CSP plants are now typically between 50 and 280MW in size, but could be larger still. CSP systems can be specifically integrated with storage or in hybrid operation with fossil fuels, offering firm capacity and dispatchable power on demand. It is suitable for peak loads and base-loads, and power is typically fed into the electricity grid.

Why use it?

The planet is on the brink of runaway climate change. If annual average temperatures rise by more than 2ºC, the entire world will face more natural disasters, hotter and longer droughts, failure of agricultural areas and massive loss of species. Because climate change is caused by burning fossil fuels, we urgently need an energy revolution, changing the world’s energy mix to a majority of non-polluting sources. To avoid dangerous climate change, global emissions must peak in 2015 and start declining thereafter, reaching as close to zero as possible by mid-century. CSP is a large-scale, commercially viable way to make electricity. It is best suited to those areas of the world with the most sun; Southern Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East, parts of India, China, Southern USA and Australia, where many are suffering from peak electricity problems, blackouts and rising electricity costs. CSP does not contribute to climate change and the source will never run out. The technology is mature enough to grow exponentially in the world’s ‘sun-belt’.

What will the size of the market be?

In the last five years, the industry has expanded rapidly from a newly-introduced technology to  ecome a massproduced and mainstream energy generation solution. CSP installations were providing just 436 MW of the world’s electricity generation at the end of 2008. Projects under construction at the time of writing, mostly in Spain, will add at least another 1,000 MW by around 2011. In the USA, projects adding up to further 7,000 MW are under planning and development plus 10,000 GW in Spain, which could all come online by 2017. According to the Global CSP Outlook 2009, under an advanced industry development scenario, with high levels of energy efficiency, CSP could meet up to 7% of the world’s projected power needs in 2030 and a full quarter by 2050.

Even with a set of moderate assumptions for future market development, the world would have a combined solar power capacity of over 830 GW by 2050, with annual deployments of 41 GW. This would represent 3.0 to 3.6% of global demand in 2030 and 8.5 to 11.8%
in 2050.

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