2014 - the year of concentrating solar power

As shown in this report from the United States Department of Energy (DOE), 2014 was a big year for solar energy.  Some of the most innovative concentrating solar power (CSP) projects in the world came online in 2013 and became fully operational in 2014.  This report focuses on a number of groundbreaking U.S. projects but as we’ll show here CSP technology advancements are reaching across the globe, as projects that are under construction in Morocco and Pakistan are set to soon become some of the biggest in the world.

Concentrating solar power: how it works

Concentrated solar power harnesses the power of the sun to create energy that we are able to use.   CSP plants consist of two parts: one that collects solar energy and converts it to heat, and another that converts the heat energy to electricity.  What makes CSP unique and particularly valuable is when it is deployed with thermal energy storage.  It can then provide a dispatchable source of renewable energy, delivering electricity whenever needed by an electric utility to meet consumer demand, performing like a traditional base-load power plant.   It can also integrate with fossil-based generation sources in "hybrid" configurations to improve the performance of both systems.  Three CSP technologies - the parabolic trough , power tower  and thermal storage - are described in detail in this report.

Why this matters for countries making a Cleanleap

The US and Spain are definitely leading the world in CSP thermal deployment but as as I’ve shown in another post, other countries are going forward with CSP technology and if successful these will be some of the biggest projects in the world.  The Ouarzazate project in Morocco is already building a 160 MW plant and two new  plants just got signed off for the second phase of the 500 MW Ouarzazate project.  The Moroccan government has big plans for CSP and it’s goal is to produce two gigawatts of solar power by 2020.  Pakistan's first major solar thermal plant is the Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park.  An initial capacity of 100 MW of the plant was rolled out in 2014 and plans are to have 1000 MW operational by the end of 2016.  This could make it the largest solar thermal plant in the world.   On completion, the plant will have over 400,000 PV panels.  

Concentrated Solar Power Plant site in Ouarzazate, credit: Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean

Although the U.S. and Spain are the clear leaders in CSP deployment other countries are now getting in on the game.  Learning from the knowledge sharing of early adopters is the whole point of Cleanleap and we believe the expertise shared in this report helps with a very good overview on work that is happening in U.S. .