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Market News

 July 11, 2009
Bigger Role for Concentrating Solar Power?

 A coalition of industry and environmental groups sees a higher profile for concentrating solar power in coming decades.

Solar advocates have increased their forecasts for the amount of electricity that could be supplied by a technology known as concentrating solar power, saying that C.S.P. may be able to deliver up to 7 percent electricity demand worldwide by 2030 and up to a quarter of those needs by mid-century.

The report was prepared by Greenpeace, an environmental group, the European Solar Thermal Electricity Association, an industry group, and SolarPACES, an organization of national experts that works under the umbrella of the International Energy Agency.

Previous forecasts by those groups suggested that C.S.P. could supply up to 5 percent of electricity around the world by 2040.

Sven Teske, a renewable energy director with Greenpeace International in Amsterdam, and a co-author of the study, said the groups chose to give a forecast for 2030, rather than another for 2040, because development had been much faster than predicted.

Mr. Teske said the main driver had been the uptake of C.S.P. in Spain, where a feed-in tariff was introduced in 2005.

C.S.P technology often uses hundreds of mirrors to concentrate the sun's rays to a temperature typically between 400 and 1,000 degrees centigrade to drive electricity-generating turbines. Criticisms of the technology include the high cost of building C.S.P. relative to many other energy technologies, as well as the problem of storing power accumulated during daylight hours so it can be released at night.

Companies active in the sector include Acciona, Abengoa, BrightSource Energy, eSolar and Stirling Energy Systems.

Under the forecasts made by the groups, the technology could displace 58 coal-fired power plants by 2020, and 1,286 coal-fired power plants by 2050. Under those scenarios, the technology would abate 213 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2020 and 4.7 billion metric tons by 2050.