EU solar organisation:

Essential role of solar thermal electricity

Solar Millenium

Solar Millenium

Solar thermal power plant Andasol 1

Elena Dufour, 6 Mar 13
Solar thermal electricity is currently going through a period of transition which will lead to a promising future. The European Solar Thermal Electricity Association (ESTELA) is taking this opportunity to broaden its geographical scope.

Brussels (ed) ESTELA will cover the neighbouring countries involved in Solar thermal electricity (STE) in order to promote the large deployment of STE in a harmonised context. One of the many assets of the technology is its dispatchability. STE plants can  follow the demand curve perfectly, with  operational time (capacity factor) much  higher than 50 percent all year long. Furthermore, STE power plants are able  to feed stable electricity in to the grid,  thanks to their well dimensioned onsite  storage and their ability to hybridise with biomass or any other source. In some regions, hybridisation with natural gas or  coal might be advantageous.  Unlike other generation technologies,  STE plants provide a minimum local content close to 50 percent from the very first  plant installed. The positive macroeconomic impact of STE plants is the highest  among the most relevant renewable energy technologies, both in job creation and  in the development of local industry.

Finally, the competitiveness of STE  plants in the short and medium term has  been proven: a remarkable cost reduction has been achieved by STE since 2007 with  only three gigawatts installed worldwide.  Power plants in Spain, some of which are  still in the construction phase, can no longer be considered as a current cost reference for STE technologies. Feed-in tariffs  in Spain correspond to projects approved in 2009, with designs completed before  2007. However, new and larger plants designed and constructed in other sunbelt  countries now show much lower generation costs in the range of EUR 0.15 per  kilowatt-hour (kWh). The industry belives  that the costs will decrease further in the  next years to the range of EUR 0.10/kWh  by 2020. Last but not least, the outcome of the  first call of the New Entrants’ Reserve of  the European Emissions Trading System  (NER300) was published on 18 December  2012, awarding EUR 203.3 million for STE  from the auctions of 300 million allowances. The European Investment Bank (EIB)  positively evaluated four STE projects: two  in Greece (parabolic dishes and a central  receiver), one in Cyprus (parabolic dishes)  and one in Spain (a central receiver).

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