A new study by Greenpeace International, the European Solar Thermal Electricity Association and the International Energy Agency considers three different potential scenarios for concentrated solar power's (CSP) growth over the next few decades. In the third and most aggressive scenario, we could see CSP generating 25 percent of the world's electricity by 2050.
The scenario includes increased investment in the technology to $29 billion a year by 2015 and $243 billion a year by 2050. These investments would lead to installed CSP plant capacity of 1,500 GW by 2050. The second scenario saw more modest investment increases and a total capacity of 830 GW by 2050, still an impressive 12 percent of the world's energy needs. The first scenario assumed no investment increases at all, with CSP making up only 0.2 percent of the world's energy.
The technology has been taking off recently. Spain alone has 50 projects in the works and will be generating 2 GW from CSP by 2015. Worldwide, CSP currently makes up 436 MW and investments in the technology will reach about $2.8 billion this year. Based on current global plans, by 2017, close to 20 GW of CSP capacity will be installed. While the dramatic investment increases that the study explores are very unlikely, it's interesting to see the full potential of the technology and maybe it will lead to at least a modest increase in investment and development.
The technology is best fitted for desert regions and the entire sun-belt around the equator, including parts of southern U.S., North Africa, Mexico, China and India could make great use of CSP.
The full study is available here (PDF).
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