All Energy for Europe Could Come from Concentrating Solar Power

A study commissioned by the German Government shows in detail how Europe (including the UK and Ireland) can meet all its needs for electricity, cut emissions of CO2 from electricity generation by 70% by the year 2050, and phase out nuclear power at the same time, using concentrating solar power (CSP), according to a release from Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation (TREC).

The key to this revolution in electricity supply is the gradual replacement of old polluting power plants that rely on dwindling supplies of fuel with a greater range of non-polluting sources of energy that will be good for thousands of years. In the scenario described in the new ‘TRANS-CSP’ study, the need for imported sources of energy will be reduced and this (coupled with the increased range of sources of energy) will help ensure the resilience and security of energy supplies. But a key part of the proposals in this study and the earlier ‘MED-CSP’ study is the development of a solar-energy collaboration between countries of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa (EUMENA) to take advantage of the monumental quantities of energy that fall as sunlight on the world’s hot deserts. Dr. Franz Trieb, Project Manager for the two studies, said, “Every year, each square kilometer of desert receives solar energy equivalent to 1.5 million barrels of oil. Multiplying by the area of deserts worldwide, this is nearly a thousand times the entire current energy consumption of the world.” “We can tap in to this energy by using mirrors to concentrate sunlight and create heat. The heat may be used to raise steam and drive a generator in the conventional way. This kind of concentrating solar power (CSP) — which is very different from the better-known photovoltaic solar panels — has been producing electricity successfully in California for nearly 20 years,” he added. “The cost of collecting solar thermal energy equivalent to one barrel of oil is about US$50 right now (already less than the current world price of oil) and is likely to come down to around US$20 in future. Contrary to what is commonly supposed, it is entirely feasible and cost-effective to transmit solar electricity over long distances,” explained Trieb.
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