The thing to like about solar thermal, as we’ve often discussed here, is that it affords us a fairly low-cost way of storing energy and delivering it when the sun isn’t shining. This is due to fact that in today’s world, we can store heat energy (in vats of molten salt) far less expensively than we can store electrical energy (in batteries). Thus solar thermal installations can be treated as baseload, delivering power on a consistent 24X7 basis.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that they’re still expensive – the neighborhood of $5 – $7 per Watt.
Yet those of us who favor solar thermal believe that costs will fall dramatically as these technologies mature. Solar thermal is really in its infancy, lagging several decades behind photovoltaics (PV) and wind in terms of its development. The plummeting cost of PV (to about $1 per Watt) wouldn’t have happened in a million years without the support of an enormous number of public and private agencies. I’m among those who hopes that solar thermal will be given the same chance.