Investments to exceed 2 bln euros this year
PARIS - Solar power plants in deserts
using mirrors to concentrate the sun's rays have
the potential to generate up to a quarter of the
world's electricity by 2050, a report by pro-solar
groups said on Monday.
The study, by environmental group
Greenpeace, the European Solar Thermal Electricity
Association (ESTELA) and the International Energy
Agency's (IEA) SolarPACES group, said huge investments
would also create jobs and fight climate change.
"Solar power plants are the next big
thing in renewable energy," said Sven Teske of Greenpeace
International and co-author of the report. The technology
is suited to hot, cloudless regions such as the
Sahara or Middle East.
The 28-page report said investments
in concentrating solar power (CSP) plants were set
to exceed 2 billion euros ($2.80 billion) worldwide
this year, with the biggest installations under
construction in southern Spain and California.
"Concentrating solar power could meet
up to 7 percent of the world's projected power needs
in 2030 and a full quarter by 2050," it said of
the most optimistic scenario.
That assumes a giant surge in investments
to 21 billion euros a year by 2015 and 174 billion
a year by 2050, creating hundrds of thousands of
jobs. Under that scenario, solar plants would have
installed capacity of 1,500 gigawatts by 2050.
That is far more optimistic than business-as-usual
projections by the Paris-based IEA, which advises
rich nations. It indicates that "by 2050 the penetration
of solar power would be no higher than 0.2 percent
globally," the report noted.
CSP uses arrays of hundreds of mirrors
or lenses to concentrate the sun's rays to temperatures
between 400 and 1,000 Celsius (750-1,800 Fahrenheit)
to provide energy to drive a power plant.
It differs from solar photovoltaics,
which turn the sun's rays directly into electricity
in panels and generate some power even on overcast
days. CSP works only under sunny skies.
"We now have a third billion-dollar
technology alongside wind and solar photovoltaics,"
Teske told Reuters.
The report said generation costs range
from 0.15 to 0.23 euros per kilowatt hour -- above
fossil fuels or many renewables -- and would fall
to 0.10-0.14 euros by 2020. Guaranteed sales prices
were needed to spur investments, it said.
CSP installations made up just 430
Megawatts of the world's electricity generation
capacity at the end of 2008.
"CSP plants can deliver reliable industry-scale
power supply around the clock due to storage technologies
and hybrid operations within the power plant," said
Jose Nebrera, president of ESTELA. (For Reuters
latest environment blogs click on: blogs.reuters.com/environment/)
(Editing by Richard Williams),