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Sun + Mirrors = Power

Leading concentrating solar power companies, Abengoa, BrightSource Energy and Torresol Energy today announced the formation of the Concentrating Solar Power Alliance (CSPA). The new organization is dedicated to educating U.S. regulators, utilities and grid operators about the unique benefits of concentrating solar power (CSP) and of thermal energy storage as a foundational resource for a reliable, low-carbon electricity mix and a driver of economic growth.

“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 the CSP Alliance.

CSP technologies use mirrors to concentrate the thermal energy of the sun to drive a conventional steam turbine. The first commercial CSP plants were built in California in the mid-1980’s and are operating today with a higher output than when they were new. 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, with many gigawatts more under development. Worldwide, more than one gigawatt of CSP is 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.

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 fossil fuel power plants as “hybrids” for cleaner baseload power

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.

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