CSP stands for Concentrated Solar Power, and it really isn’t a cutting edge technology. It uses solar power, focused through mirrors, to heat water in a central tower (like in the image on the left), create steam, and spin a turbine to generate electricity. It’s so simple and effective that it can currently deliver electricity at €0.15 to €0.23 a kilowatt.
A study published whose co-author is Sven Teske, from Greenpeace International, says that at the end of 2008, worldwide CSP stations had a capacity of 430MW, with chances of increasing to 7% by 2030. By 2050, the investment in CSP could reach €92.5bn, creating almost 2m jobs and saving 2.1bn tonnes of CO2 every year.
The study looks at three scenarios:
1. the worst case scenario, assuming no increases in CSP production
2. the investments in CSP will continue as those from recent years in Spain and US. Even with these modest growth numbers, the world’s combined CSP capacity could reach 830GW by 2050, representing up to 12% of the world’s energy generation needs.
3. all political and investment barriers would be removed, and there could be a giant surge in investments to €21bn a year by 2015 and €174bn a year by 2050, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs. In this case, solar plants would have installed capacity of 1,500GW by 2050 and provide 25% of the world’s electricity capacity.
Solar power is the ultimate energy source acquirable from what we normally have available (we won’t think of nuclear fusion or fission, that’s another issue). Photovoltaics are the next best thing, but they evolve in a rather slow manner and with high prices. By the third scenario, the price of CSP-generated energy would go as low as €0.10-€0.14 by 2020, if governments would support this technology. As far as I can think, they have no reason not to, if they follow their interests and not the oil companies’.