After years of uncertainties, concentrated solar energy technologies will be used in plants with thousands of MW.
The latter was confirmed by a study from Lux Research, which compares the three main solar thermal technologies, also with solar photovoltaic. In 2011 there will be a boost of concentrated solar power, which for the first time will reach thousands of MW.
The latter was stated in a report called Solar Thermal Update: The Renaissance of Concentrating Solar Power (CSP), developed by Lux Research, specialized in technology analysis.
Besides examining the possible market evolution, the study compares the three main concentrating solar technologies (parabolic mirrors, solar towers and the so-called dish Stirling systems), subsequently comparing them to solar PV.
From an economic point of view, Lux considers that Stirling systems are the most economical technology, thanks to their characteristics and the low cost of their electricity generators (known as Stirling engines). However, systems are still not sufficiently large-scaled to confirm that this is true also for power generation, and not only for small systems.
From the standpoint of energy, parabolic trough plants have the highest conversion efficiency (followed by tower CSP). This technology is more expensive due to the costly fields and mirror maintenance.
Solar photovoltaic, whose total generating costs are among the highest, is placed in between as regards both costs and efficiency.
“After a few fits and starts, solar thermal projects have begun to make a big impact on the generation mix in both Spain and the Southwest U.S,” said Ted Sullivan, a Lux Research Senior Analyst and the report’s lead author. He also provided a forecast: “Though trough technologies have been dominant to date, we expect power tower solutions to gain increasing prominence as the technology is proven, because their integration with thermal storage technologies smashes through the fundamental constraint that has held solar back to date: intermittency.”