I promised this week would focus on technology. Other than energy efficiency (see here), I don’t believe any set of technologies will be more important to the climate fight than concentrated solar power (CSP).
I have a long article on CSP in Salon, “The technology that will save humanity: The solar energy you haven’t heard of is the one best suited to generate clean electricity for generations to come.”
OK, maybe “will” should be “may help” [I'm an optimist, sue me!] and CP readers have heard about CSP for a while (see here). But I do think CSP deserves much more attention:
It is the best source of clean energy to replace coal and sustain economic development. I bet that it will deliver more power every year this century than coal with carbon capture and storage — for much less money and with far less environmental damage….
How much less? Many industry experts told me CSP will likely deliver power for well under $.10 per kilowatt hour fully installed in the next decade.
What is its market potential? I think it could be more than two wedges, which is several thouand gigawatts:
It would be straightforward to build CSP systems at whatever rate industry and governments needed, ultimately 50 to 100 gigawatts a year growth or more.
Why is CSP so important?
Because it’s the only form of clean electricity that can meet all the demanding requirements of this century….
The Salon article goes through those requirements and explains why. The article also goes through some of the fascinating three-millenium history behind “One of oldest forms of energy used by humans — sunlight concentrated by mirrors.”
One final point — based on the early comments on the Salon piece, I realize that many people think that a flaw in CSP is that it would require long-distance transmission lines that would lose massive amounts of power. Well, my (terrific) editor cut out a key clause that I probably should’ve put back:
“We will need more transmission in this country,” [especially low-loss long-distance high-voltage DC lines].
I’ll have to do a HVDC lines piece soon, but you can read more than what want to know about HVDC here at Wikipedia, which notes:
Depending on voltage level and construction details, losses are quoted as about 3% per 1000 km [600 miles].
CSP is a technology that all progressive should become knowledgeable about.
- Do we need a massive government program to generate breakthroughs to make solar energy cost-competitive?
- The technologies needed to beat 450 ppm, Part 1
- Plug-in hybrids and electric cars — a core climate solution, nationally and globally