The American concentrated solar power (CSP) sector will be promoted via a new industry lobby group, the Concentrating Solar Power Alliance (CSPA).
Formed by several of the world’s leading CSP companies; Abengoa, BrightSource Energy and Torresol Energy, the new organisation will set about improving market conditions for the sector inside the U.S. by educating regulators and policymakers on the benefits CSP technology can bring to both the environment and the national economy.
The new Alliance will be headed by former Department of Energy Concentrating Solar Power Team Leader, Tex Wilkins.
Record low prices for photovoltaic cells combined with a jittery global investment market have directly contributed to some big American CSP projects either losing federal government funding or capitulating to fiscal pressure and switching to solar panel technology.
An example of this occurred last year in August when it was announced the company constructing the massive Blythe solar project would switch the first 500 megawatts of its construction work from CSP to PV technology.
However, Joe Desmond, Senior Vice President for BrightSource Energy, says CSP is set to become top dog in the solar stakes again.
“The CSP industry is experiencing unprecedented expansion globally and in the U.S. Utilities, grid operators and policymakers are recognizing that CSP provides clean, reliable and flexible power – all necessary components for a diverse and affordable energy mix.”
Unlike solar panels, which convert sunshine into electricity, CSP technology uses parabolic mirrors to focus sunlight onto a solar collection point – often atop a tower – where the heat collected is used to create steam, which drives turbines.
This, according to the CSPA, gives concentrated solar an edge when it comes to providing baseload power and an alternative to fossil fuels because:
– Electricity is produced at peak demand during the late afternoon or early summer evening hours or winter mornings
– Includes cost-effective, efficient thermal energy storage to provide a flexible clean energy source, day or night
– Can be incorporated into fossil fuel power plants for cleaner baseload power
There are currently over 500 MW of CSP plants operating in the U.S and more than 1,300 MW of CSP plants under construction, with more at various other stages.