Concentrated solar power (CSP) could meet a substantial percentage of current energy demand in some parts of the world, according to research published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
In the Mediterranean region, for example, the study shows that a grid-connected CSP network could provide 70 to 80 percent of current electricity demand, at no extra cost compared to natural gas-fired power plants. CSP could also feasibly meet energy demands in parts of southern Africa, according to researchers.
CSP systems use mirrors or lenses to concentrate solar rays into a small area. The concentrated energy heats a liquid that produces steam to drive turbines, which means that the collected energy can be stored as heat and converted to electricity when needed — a major advantage over traditional solar panels, which store energy much less efficiently.
But even CSP systems can have difficulty meeting energy demands if the sun doesn’t shine for long periods of time. The new study shows that building large, connected networks of CSP systems could overcome that challenge, making CSP economically competitive with gas-fired power plants in at least two regions.