BrightSource Energy, Inc., along with other concentrating solar power companies, Abengoa and Torresol Energy, announced the formation of the Concentrating Solar Power Alliance (CSPA). The Alliance’s mission is to promote the increased acceptance, adoption and implementation of concentrating solar power plants in the United States. The Alliance, to be led by Tex Wilkins, former Department of Energy Concentrating Solar Power Team Leader, will also promote policies to encourage and advance CSP technology deployment.
“Concentrating solar power technology is the only renewable resource that is capable of harnessing the world’s most abundant fuel source – the sun – to produce reliable, cost-effective, and dispatchable electricity,” said Tex Wilkins, Executive Director of CSP Alliance. “We believe CSP, with the ability to dispatch electricity when it is needed is critical in meeting the energy challenges facing the United States and the world.”
CSP technologies produce electricity the same way as a conventional power plant – by producing high temperature steam to drive a conventional steam turbine. Instead of using fossil fuels or nuclear energy as a fuel source, CSP uses the abundant and free energy from the sun to produce steam.
“The CSP industry is experiencing unprecedented expansion globally and in the U.S.,” said Joe Desmond, Senior Vice President, Government Affairs and Communications for BrightSource Energy. “Utilities, grid operators and policymakers are recognizing that CSP provides clean, reliable and flexible power – all necessary components for a diverse and affordable energy mix.”
Utilities and grid operators worldwide value CSP plants because of the technology’s ability to:
- Produce electricity at peak demand when it is needed most during the late afternoon or early summer evening hours or winter mornings
- Include cost-effective, efficient thermal energy storage to provide a flexible and dispatchable clean energy source, day or night
- Incorporate into coal or gas power plants as “hybrids” for cleaner baseload power
There are currently over 500 MW of CSP plants operating in the U.S and more than 1,300 megawatts of CSP plants under construction in the U.S, with many gigawatts more under development. BrightSource specifically is constructing and developing approximately 2,400 megawatts in projects in the U.S. to meet its contractual agreements with Pacific Gas & Electric Company and Southern California Edison, California’s two largest utilities. BrightSource’s Ivanpah 392 megawatt (gross) project in southeastern California is currently the largest solar thermal project under construction in the world.
Worldwide, more than 1.5 gigawatts of CSP are in operation. The International Energy Agency estimates that CSP projects now in development or under construction in more than a dozen countries (including China, India, Morocco, Spain and the United States) total 15 gigawatts.
CSP plants have also shown to be great creators of economic benefits in the regions where they are built as well as across the United States. A recent study by Deloitte found that compared to other power generation sources, CSP plants are a strong generator of local jobs during construction, in operation, and maintenance. BrightSource´s Ivanpah plant is expected to create approximately 1,400 jobs during peak construction and generate $650 million in worker wages over its 25-year life.
The supply chain feeding CSP plants creates jobs nationwide as well, due to the plant’s high percentage of domestically-sourced componentsi. Another study commissioned by the National Renewable Energy Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy found that a 100 megawatt CSP plant creates more than $600 million in gross state output, ten times that of a combined cycle fossil plantii due to the local content and job creation. The majority of the 370 MW Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System’s supply chain is being sourced in the U.S., with components and services coming from more than 17 states.
The formation of the CSP Alliance builds on the momentum following the creation of the World Solar Thermal Electricity Association (STELAWorld) a consortium of industry associations representing the solar thermal electricity industry in Europe, Australia and South Africa. While independent of STELAWorld, the CSP Alliance will work closely with these associations to further advance the solar thermal industry in the U.S. and abroad.
CSP is poised to grow worldwide, creating clean power and jobs as it expands to meet the world’s energy needs. Current CSP projects demonstrate the technology’s viability and a recent study from the International Energy Agency shows that with sufficient investment and supportive government policies, more than ten percent of the world’s electricity demand could be satisfied by CSP by 2050.