INTERNATIONAL. Apparently, the development of solar thermal energy always comes in time of need. The role of governments and policy makers is often underestimated but has resulted in much needed progress in the solar field.
Energy price peaks have marked our industrial history through a variety of ways, recently, strengthening of OPEC, the liberalisation of China and political insecurities all come to mind. Using the direct radiation of the sun to produce electricity is proving increasingly popular, as is cutting the cost of silicon and guaranteeing the cost of energy produced thermally.
Spain provides an interesting example. In 2005, it produced zero megawatt from thermal energy, and now has 500 MW by 2010 in the pipeline. Abengoa head, Michael Geyer, believes solar energy is “essential for electricity grid stabilisation” as it is a renewable source that can be stored effectively to supply full load when needed.
Geyer aded: "For concentrated solar power (solar thermal), in a northern region Direct Normal Irradiation (DNI) varies between 1,200 and 1,500 kWh per square metrer per year while on a desert area the radiation could achieve up to 3000 kWh. Thereby, solar energy could be almost three times more expensive in a northern region.”
Last week, the Spanish government made a strong statement in favour of solar thermal by cutting subsidies for producers of the other major solar technology, photovoltaics (PVs). With major feed-in tariffs (subsidies), Germany has seen the rise of PV, due to its low irradiation requirements and domestic sunlight available.
Silicon and thermal storage dominate technology developments in the current solar thermal market. Both are widely considered to hold the keys to making solar thermal scalable and industrially prominent.
It’s not just wind that looks exciting in America as the US hots up to become one of the next big markets on the solar scene. By next year, the investment tax credit is expected to be in place which will allow renewables to expand in a thirsty market.
But is solar only for the big boys? Well apparently not. In Germany, the solar thermal hot water market employs 18,000 people, with 140,000 solar heaters installed in homes in 2006 alone.
To learn more about this subject, look out for the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, on 19-21 January 2009. Confirmed speakers for the solar thermal stream include Juergen Biegel, Solar Millennium; Ignacio Cuenca, Iberdrola; Michael Geyer, Abengoa Solar; and Dr Olaf Goebel, Masdar.
Note: The World Future Energy Summit held its inaugural event on 21-23 January 2008 in Abu Dhabi under the patronage of HH General Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. The first summit in January brought together 11,272 attendees from 77 countries, 213 exhibitors from 23 countries, over 80 speakers and 423 international and regional media.
Hosted by Masdar, WFES 2008 took place at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre with Credit Suisse as the principal sponsor. The platinum sponsors were BP, Shell, Standard Chartered and Merrill Lynch and the gold sponsors were International Power, Total, Dolphin Energy and Occidental.