Concentrating solar power technologies use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto receivers that collect the solar energy and convert it to heat.
This solar thermal energy can then be used to produce electricity via a steam turbine or heat engine driving a generator.
Concentrating solar thermal power technologies can generate electricity at relatively low cost and deliver power during periods of peak demand. In addition, integration with low-cost thermal storage adds significant value to the energy delivered from CSP plants. Many utilities are including concentrating solar power in their power-generation portfolio
2011 has so far resulted in $3.35bn having been announced by the DOE in loan guarantees for 4 different projects. With 1,796MW now in construction and with the support of DOE loan guarantees and more than 10GW in the pipeline, the industry is gaining real momentum. Reducing costs, securing transmission, environmental permits and financing are still enormous roadblocks for full development of the industry in the USA. But there has never been a better time to prove the viability, the potential for the creation of green jobs, and energy independence that CSP brings to the table.
The U.S. Department of Energy is increasing its CSP research, development, and deployment efforts, leveraging both industry partners and the national laboratories. DOE’s goals include making CSP competitive in the intermediate power market by 2015, and developing advanced technologies that will reduce systems and storage costs, enabling CSP to be competitive in the baseload power market by 2020.