Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Solar Thermal Electricity, a.k.a. Concentrated Solar Power

Solar thermal power has a significant advantage over other renewable sectors: it mimics more accurately the electricity demand curve. There is a large potential to seize this energy resource in Southern Europe and the Union’s neighbour countries of the Mediterranean. The installed capacity in Europe is expected to reach 2 GW by 2012 and around 30 GW by 2020. A much larger expression could be achieved in the long-term by involving the North Africa countries.

According to ESTELA, the European Solar Thermal Electricity Association, the European Industry is the world leader in this sector. Spain in particular has been having a leading role, building on encouraging feed-in tariffs established by the Government. The number of Spanish plants which are operating or under construction is presented in the following table.

Table 1 - Concentrated Solar Power plants in Spain
Authorized plants in Spain
Number of plants
Operating or in commissioning in 2009
Completion 2010
Completion 2011
Completion 2012
Completion 2013
Total 2010-2013

The European Commission, in its Technology Roadmap for the period 2010-2020, established several objectives for Solar Thermal Electricity, also known as Concentrated Solar Power. The main objective set forward is the reduction of the generation, operation and maintenance costs, through measures such as the improvement of the system conversion efficiency, the improvement of the reliability and efficiency of individual components, and the development of advanced plant monitoring and control technologies.

The second most important objective is to develop and improve thermal energy storage, as well as hybridization of the power plants with natural gas or even biomass, in an effort to increase the operational flexibility and energy dispachability of Concentrated Solar Power.

Environmental objectives have also been set. The need to reduce the water-use footprint associated with the cooling water consumption has also been specifically included. Optimization of land use through new and innovative designs would also contribute to reduce the ecological footprint.

In this context, ESTELA developed the Implementation Plan for 2010-2013 of the Solar Thermal Electricity European Industrial Initiative, included in the framework of the SET-Plan, intended to enhance innovation and contribute to increase the competitiveness of the sector. This implementation plan builds on the idea of coupling innovation and commercial operation.

Source: Solar Thermal Electricity European Industrial Initiative Implementation Plan 2010-2013, May 2012

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