Chapter 6: Concentrated Thermal Solar Power and the Value of Water for Electricity
Cynthia L. Schwartz INTRODUCTION 6.1. The abundance of sunlight is a critical component in the application of solar energy conversion technologies. Business developers, government leaders and solar supporters have promoted Arizona’s 300-plus days of sunshine as a key factor in the production of readily available green energy. Some advertise that Arizona is ‘poised to become the North American capital of solar power’ (Gelt, 2008). When people think about solar energy, they frequently envision rows of shiny, rectangular photovoltaic (PV) panels mounted on top of residential rooftops providing a non-polluting and sustainable energy source. PV panels convert sunlight directly into electricity via semiconductors. Another approach to conversion of sunlight to electrical energy is to produce heat to boil water and then employ steam turbines similar to those used in other thermal power production processes. Large-scale concentrated solar power (CSP) projects using thermal energy conversion technology are proposed and being developed in parts of the southwest. Advantages of the thermal process include improved ability to manage intermittency with thermal storage capability and competitive cost per kilowatt hour. Since project developers seek to employ the most cost-effective and quickest way to install technology, PV has not generally been their first choice in the past. Under current regulatory and management structures, the electricity provider would like the energy technology to act like a conventional power plant. Though it provides power at peak times, PV energy cannot provide traditional baseload capacity. The ability to provide dispatchability throughout the customer-demand cycle and secure the best renewable...
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