In December 2008, a 1.5 MWe solar thermal central receiver system was declared operational by plant construction company Kraftanlagen Munchen. Although solar tower technology had been built as early as the 1970s and a second commercial tower is now close to completion (see REW magazine July/August 2008) the so-called Test and Demonstration Power Plant Julich, in Germany, is the world's first solar thermal power plant erected which uses air as the medium for heat transport.

The biggest rise in efficiency, however, will be due to scaling up the plants to power levels where steam cycles can operate more efficiently. With big industry and foreign governments standing in line for the construction of the next plant, the step in this direction seems to be at hand.