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Solar baseload update

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"Solar baseload update"

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Solar baseload is, of course, concentrated solar thermal electric (with a few hours of storage), a core climate solution. Earth Policy Institute has a useful update with lots of data,”Solar Thermal Power Coming to a Boil” (reprinted below). Key factoid:

With concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) capacity expected to double every 16 months over the next five years, worldwide installed CSP capacity will reach 6,400 megawatts in 2012–14 times the current capacity.

You can find the existing large solar baseload plants and the 50 or so currently proposed solar baseload plants here.

csp-map-small.jpg

EPI has an astonishing goal of “cutting carbon emissions 80% by 2020,” with a goal of 200,000 MW of solar baseload worldwide. I think the solar baseload goal is doable, but the carbon goal makes me a techno-pessimist — heck, it makes Al Gore a techno-pessimist. Here is the update by Jonathan G. Dorn:

[Note: The rest of this post is the EPI article.]

After emerging in 2006 from 15 years of hibernation, the solar thermal power industry experienced a surge in 2007, with 100 megawatts of new capacity coming online worldwide. During the 1990s, cheap fossil fuels, combined with a loss of state and federal incentives, put a damper on solar thermal power development. However, recent increases in energy prices, escalating concerns about global climate change, and fresh economic incentives are renewing interest in this technology.

Considering that the energy in sunlight reaching the earth in just 70 minutes is equivalent to annual global energy consumption, the potential for solar power is virtually unlimited. With concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) capacity expected to double every 16 months over the next five years, worldwide installed CSP capacity will reach 6,400 megawatts in 2012–14 times the current capacity.

Unlike solar photovoltaics (PVs), which use semiconductors to convert sunlight directly into electricity, CSP plants generate electricity using heat. Much like a magnifying glass, reflectors focus sunlight onto a fluid-filled vessel. The heat absorbed by the fluid is used to generate steam that drives a turbine to produce electricity. Power generation after sunset is possible by storing excess heat in large, insulated tanks filled with molten salt. Since CSP plants require high levels of direct solar radiation to operate efficiently, deserts make ideal locations.

Two big advantages of CSP over conventional power plants are that the electricity generation is clean and carbon-free and, since the sun is the energy source, there are no fuel costs. Energy storage in the form of heat is also significantly cheaper than battery storage of electricity, providing CSP with an economical means to overcome intermittency and deliver dispatchable power.

The United States and Spain are leading the world in the development of solar thermal power, with a combined total of over 5,600 megawatts of new capacity expected to come online by 2012. Representing over 90 percent of the projected new capacity by 2012, the output from these plants would be enough to meet the electrical needs of more than 1.7 million homes.

The largest solar thermal power complex in operation today is the Solar Electricity Generating Station in the Mojave Desert in California. Coming online between 1985 and 1991, the 354-megawatt complex has been producing enough power for 100,000 homes for almost two decades. In June 2007, the 64-megawatt Nevada Solar One plant became the first multi-megawatt commercial CSP plant to come online in the United States in 16 years.

Today, more than a dozen new CSP plants are being planned in the United States, with some 3,100 megawatts expected to come online by 2012. Some impressive CSP projects in the planning stages include the 553-megawatt Mojave Solar Park in California, the 500-megawatt Solar One and 300-megawatt Solar Two projects in California, a 300-megawatt facility in Florida, and the 280-megawatt Solana plant in Arizona.

In Spain, the first commercial-scale CSP plant to begin operation outside the United States since the mid-1980s came online in 2007: the 11-megawatt PS10 tower. The tower is part of the 300-megawatt Solºcar Platform, which, when completed in 2013, will contain ten CSP plants and produce enough electricity to supply 153,000 homes while preventing 185,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions annually. All told, more than 60 plants are in the pipeline in Spain, with 2,570 megawatts expected to come online by 2012.

Economic and policy incentives are partly responsible for the renewed interest in CSP. The incentives in the United States include a 30-percent federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar through the end of 2008, which has good prospects for being extended, and Renewable Portfolio Standards in 26 states. California requires that utilities get 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2010, and Nevada requires 20 percent by 2015, with at least 5 percent from solar power. The primary incentive in Spain is a feed-in tariff that guarantees that utilities will pay power producers ‚¬0.26 (40¢) per kilowatt-hour for electricity generated by CSP plants for 25 years.

In the southwestern United States, the cost of electricity from CSP plants (including the federal ITC) is roughly 13–17¢ per kilowatt-hour, meaning that CSP with thermal storage is competitive today with simple-cycle natural gas-fired power plants. The U.S. Department of Energy aims to reduce CSP costs to 7–10¢ per kilowatt-hour by 2015 and to 5–7¢ per kilowatt-hour by 2020, making CSP competitive with fossil-fuel-based power sources.

Outside the United States and Spain, regulatory incentives in France, Greece, Italy, and Portugal are expected to stimulate the installation of 3,200 megawatts of CSP capacity by 2020. China anticipates building 1,000 megawatts by that time. Other countries developing CSP include Australia, Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Mexico, Morocco, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates.

Using CSP plants to power electric vehicles could further reduce CO2 emissions and provide strategic advantages by relaxing dependence on oil. In Israel, a tender issued by the Ministry for National Infrastructures for the construction of CSP plants and a 19.4¢ per kilowatt-hour feed-in tariff for solar power systems are sparking interest in developing up to 250 megawatts of CSP in the Negev Desert. This would produce enough electricity to run the 100,000 electric cars that Project Better Place, a company focused on building an electric personal transportation system, is planning to put on Israeli roads by the end of 2010.

A study by Ausra, a solar energy company based in California, indicates that over 90 percent of fossil fuel–generated electricity in the United States and the majority of U.S. oil usage for transportation could be eliminated using solar thermal power plants–and for less than it would cost to continue importing oil. The land requirement for the CSP plants would be roughly 15,000 square miles (38,850 square kilometers, the equivalent of 15 percent of the land area of Nevada). While this may sound like a large tract, CSP plants use less land per equivalent electrical output than large hydroelectric dams when flooded land is included, or than coal plants when factoring in land used for coal mining. Another study, published in Scientific American in January 2008, proposes using CSP and PV plants to produce 69 percent of U.S. electricity and 35 percent of total U.S. energy, including transportation, by 2050.

CSP plants on less than 0.3 percent of the desert areas of North Africa and the Middle East could generate enough electricity to meet the needs of these two regions plus the European Union. Realizing this, the Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation–an initiative of The Club of Rome, the Hamburg Climate Protection Foundation, and the National Energy Research Center of Jordan–conceived the DESERTEC Concept in 2003. This plan to develop a renewable energy network to transmit power to Europe from the Middle East and North Africa calls for 100,000 megawatts of CSP to be built throughout the Middle East and North Africa by 2050. Electricity delivery to Europe would occur via direct current transmission cables across the Mediterranean. Taking the lead in making the concept a reality, Algeria plans to build a 3,000-kilometer cable between the Algerian town of Adrar and the German city of Aachen to export 6,000 megawatts of solar thermal power by 2020.

If the projected annual growth rate of CSP through 2012 is maintained to 2020, global installed CSP capacity would exceed 200,000 megawatts–equivalent to 135 coal-fired power plants. With billions of dollars beginning to flow into the CSP industry and U.S. restrictions on carbon emissions imminent, CSP is primed to reach such capacity.

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16 Responses to Solar baseload update

  1. Ann says:

    Joe, Just read your piece in the Huffington Post. As a live time California resident saving energy and water is just what you do. I have over half my light blubs changed to flourscent, its very easy to make a difference. Have you forwarded your work and ideas to Obama’s contact people ?

  2. David B. Benson says:

    Maybe I misread it, but the carbon goal was, I thought, just for electricity generation?

  3. RhapsodyInGlue says:

    Very encouraging that things are progressing on this very promising technology. Hopefully India and China will jump on the CSP train.

    With the growth rates now projected for wind and solar, their true potential will be hard to deny. Wish we could push through some government funding for a comprehensive analysis such as done by Gregor Czisch at Kassel University which looked at years worth of historical electrical use for Europe along with wind and solar data to show that 100% renewable is feasible. The computer analysis did a huge cost optimization problem figuring out the least cost combination of new CSP, wind, biomass and hydro storage in order to support 100% renewable… and the final cost was really quite reasonable compared to the uncertainties of fossil fuel prices. He didn’t even consider several very important technologies which could further drive down the overall system cost… thermal storage (ice and hot water) used for HVAC as a means of providing storage for electricity, smart appliances for demand side management, smart grid PHEVs and solar thermal used directly for heating (space and water).

    It’s a shame we don’t yet have our brightest engineers cranking away at our world class universities telling us what is possible. Instead we get our vision from people like Boone Pickens, whose strategic focus is dictated by his own business interests.

  4. I’ve put up a site supporting CSP with storage or as you are calling it, solar baseload at http://www.solarsouthwest.org. Comments, thoughts and site membership by sincere supporters welcome.

  5. wow gold says:

    谢谢.
    Chinese mean is thanks.

  6. dwight says:

    One question: Do the cost estimates of CSP include the cost of cooling water for the generators? In a visit to the CSP plant in Kramer Junction, CA the operator pointed out that they purchase their cooling water from the Colorado River (i.e. buy it from Los Angeles). It seems that as more CSP is installed, the very limited water supplies in the regions where CSP is efficient might limit how much power we can provide this way. Obviously conventional power plants in the same areas could be taken off line to free up water for the CSP, but because of the comparatively low operating temperature of the CSP turbines vs. natural gas plants, the amount of cooling water per kWh will increase in an all CSP plan.

    I have heard that these systems can run without evaporative cooling, but I’m not clear of any details about this. Presumably this would involve an air cooling system that would raise the upfront capital cost of the system.

    I don’t think these issues are deal breakers, but I would like to know that they are being considered and in what way.

  7. Yes, solar thermal energy is back in vogue. Especially in the US and spain. I was reading somewhere that Spain has plans for up to 60 of these plants

  8. wowgold says:

    yes, solar thermal energy is back in vogue. Especially in the US and spain. I was reading somewhere that Spain has plans for up to 60 of these plants

  9. lovewow says:

    Wish we could push through some government funding for a comprehensive analysis such as done by Gregor Czisch at Kassel University which looked at years worth of historical electrical use for Europe along with wind and solar data to show that 100% renewable is feasible. T

  10. In response to the blog statement: ‘It’s a shame we don’t yet have our brightest engineers cranking away at our world class universities telling us what is possible”.

    On the contrary this has been underway for sometime not only in United States but all over the world including it’s closest allies in Australia and New Zealand – members of the ANZUS treaty alliance and parties to specific free trade agreements who are working together assiduously to develop credible & reliable solutions. See http://www.flinders.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=221&Itemid=34 and http://www.solarpaces.org/Library/NewDocs.htm

    Solutions that not only can facilitate the transition to lighter, cleaner, safer manufacturing processes & energy sources but the transformation generally to being “mature civil societies” that are at least as environmentally, economically and socially advanced & responsible as the technology we aspire to implement. In the history of the planet and as a species we are standing on the cusp of extinction or a quantum leap forward in our evolution as sentient beings, the “beginning of the end” or the “beginning of a new era”, apoplexy of epiphany? I vote for the latter – will you join me?

    We can (yes, we can) transcend our origins of self-interest, jingoistic territorialism and parochial prejudice (racial, religious or otherwise) and expand ourselves to unite as one with a ‘common dream’ of hope & wisdom in the face of a ‘common threat’ to our world’s ultimate survival.

    BTW – “we” are the greatest threat. Be a part of the solution not the problem. It starts with us personally – “If it is to be, it is up to me”. This is a call to all good men to come forward, organize themselves into worldwide & workable communities (of enlightenment) and take strong, responsible and strategic action locally. The internet is a perfect vehicle for such an exchange of ideas & actions such as is occurring in this blog, on this site right now. Get involved – I recommend http://www.ucsusa.org , http://www.greenforall.org and http://www.auroraaustralis.net.au . Can you ad to this list?

  11. club penguin says:

    I have over half my light blubs changed to flourscent, its very easy to make a difference. Have you forwarded your work and ideas to Obama’s contact people ?

  12. mmorpg says:

    USA definitely needs to get on board more with this.

  13. I like to do everything

  14. MIR2 gold says:

    Thank you for sharing, it is a good site!