Tuesday, April 16, 2013

CSP technology is the solution for solar to achieve cost parity with fossil fuels?

Solar energy should become vital part of US energy future. The best proof to this was the Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative in February 2011 that has aim to reduce the installed cost of solar energy systems by about 75 percent in order for solar energy to achieve cost parity with traditional energy sources.

The SunShot Initiative wants solar energy to achieve cost parity with fossil fuels (without subsidies) by 2020. This is certainly a demanding mission which calls for major technological and scientific innovations.

The researchers such as Ranga Pitchumani at the Virginia Tech believe that best solution for solar energy to achieve cost parity with fossil fuels is to focus on concentrating solar power (CSP). The basic principle of this technology is fairly simple and involves using mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight to produce heat, which can then be used to produce electricity.

The main advantage of  CSP technology as compared to photovoltaics is that this technology enables the storage of the sun's energy as thermal energy. Several studies have showed that CSP technology with thermal energy storage makes it lot easier for other renewable energy sources such as wind and photovoltaic to be incorporated into the grid.

Solar energy is intermittent energy source because Sun doesn't shine all the time meaning that storing thermal energy from a concentrating solar power plant for use on demand is in fact very favorable, and could become one of the top solution to solve the intermittency of solar energy.

With more research CSP technologies could lead to low-cost energy generation and might even end the dominance of fossil fuels by replacing it as the leading source of energy for future power generation.