On our lasts post of 2012 we have asked some experts their opinion about the future of CSP technology, here goes the first interview.
One of the big promoters of solar energy around the world, and more specifically in Spain, has been Protermosolar, the Spanish Thermoelectric Solar Industry Association.
Today we share with you an interview with its General Secretary, Luis Crespo, who from his privileged position enlightened us with his insights about several issues, from his views on emerging markets, his stakes on the latest innovation and the overall future of solar energy.
Here you have a recap of our conversation:
What is your opinion on Morocco and more specifically about the Ouarzazate solar project?
It represents the first big project of this kind in Northern Africa. It is an important milestone which introduces both the possibility of generating energy for local consumption and the vision of exporting it to Europe. Besides it has provided a new reference on the costs that shows how CSP is becoming more competitive, lowering the price of solar energy to the range of 0.14 cents per kilowatt-hour.
What differentiates South Africa from the other emerging markets?
Due to their willingness to reduce carbon emissions, solar energy appears to be a good alternative for them in the form of solar thermal power plants or integrating solar fields into existing or new coal fired plants. They are moving relatively slowly, while at the same time carrying out studies to consider multiplying the installation rate by ten, more so after considering the benefits that could bring to the local economy, since a big junk of the installation of new plants could be provided by local suppliers and manpower.
Your view about the role solar energy is playing in Saudi Arabia
Petroleum is not going to last forever, so it is a smart move from part of Saudi Arabia to generate solar energy for local use, while exporting what is left of fossil fuels. On the other hand the power demand will be largely increase in the coming years and they are going to make a clever choice supporting especially dispatchable technologies like CSP.
US vs. SPAIN
At this moment both the US and Spain are leading the solar energy sector, what is your opinion on the actual situation of both countries and what awaits them in the future.
US appear to be in the next future as the country taking over the leading position Spain had so far in terms of installed power. We nevertheless hope that our country will maintain a technological privilege position. Projects such as Genesis Solar Energy, La Solana, Crescent Dunes, Ivanpah, and Mojave Solar, are going to be breakthrough ventures that will set the pace for what is about to come in CSP technology. But this is still good news for Spain since most of these plants is going to be built using Spanish technology and providers.
Spain has been, up until now, the driving force leading commercial solar energy projects. Landmark projects such Gemasolar are still making the difference, becoming a reference worldwide. Now, with the current moratorium, it is difficult to see what is going to happen in the future but we are confident that this situation will end soon and that Spain will be able to reach the goals for renewable energy implementation of 5,000 MW by 2020 as committed with the European Union to achieve.
In this regard a recent study done by the consultant firm DELOITTE about the macroeconomic impact of the solar sector in Spain shows that is still good business for the country. We hope the Government understands it, allowing us to continue our growing path towards 2020.
About innovation and the future
What are in your opinion the challenges facing the sector right now, and which obstacles should overcome in the future?
Well, we have now made solar energy more manageable, we are able to store, no depending on whether is night or cloudy. But still, we have to get around being able to increase efficiency, for instance by working with temperatures higher than 560Cº which will also lead to reducing the amount of molten salts for the same amount of stored energy.
In addition to that, we have a long way to go in terms of reducing costs by using new designs concepts, increasing the current component’s limits, optimizing the forecasting and control, etc. In this context, an adequate electrical heat tracing system is crucial to make the plant more profitable. A proper installation increases plants performance, ensuring that the transfer fluid´s temperature is the appropriate, avoiding malfunctions that can put the plant out of commission, thus saving money and making the overall project more cost-effective.
In terms of technology we should be keeping an eye on Fresnel as well as a potential optimum solution to integrate solar fields into conventional plants, although it has the problem of storage. The plants using parabolic cylinder have some limitations, but it´s a well established technology and it will continue being widely used. Solar tower with molten salts appears as an efficient solution for the next future.
Because of its simple concept of decoupling both collection and delivery of energy, and because of its easy storage capability.
We thank Mr. Crespo for sharing with us his views. On our next post we´ll publish an interview with Emilio Iglesias Sola, from Yara International ASA, to whom we talked about an innovation that can make molten salts perform even better in CSP plants.