Last Friday, DOE also said it would distribute a $62 million grant to a handful of companies researching and developing concentrated solar power projects for electric utilities. CSP uses mirrors to collect and focus sunlight on a surface to produce steam for electric power generation.
"This funding will support improvements in CSP systems, components and thermal energy storage to accelerate the market-readiness of this renewable energy technology," DOE said in announcing its financial injection.
By 2020, IEA expects photovoltaic technology fitted on residential and commercial buildings to reach "grid parity," or the point at which solar power is consistently cost-competitive with conventional fossil fuels and nuclear power. "PV will become competitive at utility-scale in the sunniest regions by 2030 and provide 5% of global electricity," according to an IEA summary of its report.
"As PV matures into a mainstream technology, grid integration and management and energy storage become key issues," it continues. "The PV industry, grid operators and utilities will need to develop new technologies and strategies to integrate large amounts of PV into flexible, efficient and smart grids. By 2050, PV could provide more than 11% of global electricity."
In the report, IEA says it expects concentrated solar power to become competitive for peak and mid-peak loads by 2020 in the sunniest places. This means it could start competing with natural gas in the United States, where gas is deployed by power generators to satisfy peak electricity demand.
Natural gas has become a thorn in the side of renewable energy companies. Gas prices have remained low for the past 18 months, reflecting increased onshore gas supply, and it is grabbing more power generation away from both coal and, to some lesser degree, wind and solar.
Thermal storage will help speed development of CSP, which can produce power throughout the day and could, by 2030, meet the substantial needs of baseload power in the United States, Europe, China and India.
"North America will be the largest producer of CSP electricity, followed by North Africa and India," says the report. "North Africa would most likely export about half its production to Europe, the second largest consumer."
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500