January 18, 2009
The world’s entire remaining store of fossil fuels is the equivalent of solar energy that shines on Earth’s deserts every 47 days. Algeria alone has enough solar thermal potential to supply Europe’s entire energy needs 50 times over.
The technology consists of a series of parabolic arrays that gather the sun’s heat and concentrate it onto a pipe filled with water, creating steam that drives a turbine. The power is then transmitted underwater or over land using high voltage DC cables that have lower EMF emissions and power loss.
In the Nevada desert, a 64 MW system is producing power for around 10-12 cents kWh. At the recent Clinton Global Initiative the power company PG&E signed a deal to purchase 2000 MW over the next five years from Ausra, a company started by the Canadian entrepreneur, scientist and innovator David Mills.
Since heat can be stored using hot water, oil or salts, solar thermal power can deliver baseload power 24 hours a day.
Solar thermal power will be cheaper than carbon captured coal or nuclear power, and has the potential to deliver 90% of the world’s electricity without carbon emissions. Globally, the best locations for plants are the western US, southern Europe, north Africa and the Middle East, north India and western China.
One way to accelerate the technology would be commitments by nations to generate 25% of their power from solar thermal by 2020 and 50% by 2030, linked to close-down of the world’s coal-fired power plants. See www.ausra.com and www.tinyurl.com/26gd8s.
First published in EcoNews: A monthly newsletter funded by your donations that dreams of a world blessed by the harmony of nature, the pleasures of community, and the joys of personal fulfillment, guided and protected by our active citizenship.