Large solar power plants can use mirrors to concentrate the sun’s rays. According to one study, these types of solar power plants could generate up to 25% of the Earth’s electricity by the year 2050. The report was made by the environmental group Greenpeace, International Energy Agency’s SolarPACES group, and the European Thermal Electricity Association (ESTELA). Also stated in their report, investments in these solar power plants can create green jobs as well as fight climate change.
Solar power plants might be the next big thing when it comes to renewable energy. Unlike the photovoltaic systems we often see today, these concentrated solar power (CSP) plants use mirrors and only work while the sun is out. The lenses must concentrate the sun’s rays to temperatures ranging from 400 to 1,000 Celsius. That’s around 750 to 1,800 Fahrenheit. This technology is suited for hot, cloudless areas, such as the Middle East and the Sahara.
There are CSP solar energy plants already under construction in California and Southern Spain. Lockheed-Martin is also building a large solar plant, with thermal, storage in Arizona. This is by far the largest one being built in the world. The 290-megawatt CSP plant will be able to power around 73,000 homes once it is completed in 2013.
Named Starwood Solar I, this plant will have 3,500 parabolic mirrors which will each focus the sun’s rays onto a heat transfer fluid. The hot fluid will then convert water into steam, which will power the plant’s turbines to produce electricity.
Back to the study, by 2030 CSP plants will power up to seven percent of the total world electrical needs. To reach that projection, companies must invest in building these plants on desert soil. More investments mean more job opportunities as well. By 2050, solar plants will have the capacity of producing 1,500 gigawatts.
With the development of concentrated solar power, and the continuous improvement on wind and solar photovoltaic technology, renewable energy can become a long-term and viable source of the Earth’s energy in the future. CSP plants can deliver reliable industry-scale energy supply 24/7, using energy storage technologies and other hybrid operations within the power plant.
With big companies such as Lockheed-Martin financing CSP projects, more investors are likely to enter into the picture. With more investments, the relatively new concentrated solar power industry will be given a much-needed boost, to provide us with cleaner energy.