Earth Policy Institute
Plan B Update
For Immediate Release
July 22, 2008
SOLAR THERMAL POWER COMING TO A BOIL
Jonathan G. Dorn
After emerging in 2006 from 15 years of hibernation, the solar thermal power industry experienced a surge in 2007, with 100 megawatts of new capacity coming online worldwide. During the 1990s, cheap fossil fuels, combined with a loss of state and federal incentives, put a damper on solar thermal power development. However, recent increases in energy prices, escalating concerns about global climate change, and fresh economic incentives are renewing interest in this technology.
Considering that the energy in sunlight reaching the earth in just 70 minutes is equivalent to annual global energy consumption, the potential for solar power is virtually unlimited. With concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) capacity expected to double every 16 months over the next five years, worldwide installed CSP capacity will reach 6,400 megawatts in 2012--14 times the current capacity. (See data at http://www.earth-policy.org/Updates/2008/Update73_data.htm#table1.)
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