The MENA region tipped to follow the footsteps of Spain and the US
Europe is aptly considered to be the leader in CSP technology.
Be it for the number of plants under construction in Spain or the ownership and construction of new plants in the US or the international tendering of plants in Northern Africa/ the Middle East which are being awarded to European companies or the number of R&D activities, Europe definitely has paved way for the development of this sector.
It is pointed out that the best location for solar thermal power plants is the Earth's Sun Belt because this is where the sun shines most frequently and also because the sun's radiation is most intense there.
Solar projects have found strong support from project financiers in regions where there is solid and long-term solar energy support regimes (like Spain or Germany).
On how has this accelerated the technology curve to lower cost solar power production, Solar Millennium's spokesperson Sven Moormann said the technology curve is just at the beginning of a development.
For its part, Solar Millennium continues to invest in the further development of parabolic trough technology, with the objective to reduce cost and to force up efficiency. Flagsol GmbH, its technology subsidiary, has developed a new generation of parabolic trough collectors. A series of innovations means that the investment costs for solar collectors will be reduced by 15 to 20 percent in the future, according to Moormann. He added that the collector is larger, more cost-effective to assemble and more efficient than previous collector designs.
Referring to the first parabolic trough power plant in Europe, Andasol 1, he said the reduction of costs that other renewables energies have submitted evidence will be also realised in solar thermal power plants.
"The advantages of solar thermal power plants are favourable for the markets so that we think that the key markets will be attractive also in the future. Solar thermal power plants have the potential to entirely replace conventional power plants in the long term. They can be integrated into the existing energy infrastructure and can generate electricity on demand," said Moormann.
Overall, more and more countries in Europe and outside of Europe are making the move towards sustainable energy supplies. Currently, Spain is the most important market. The next important market will be the southwest of the USA.
Referring to Andasol 1, Moormann said the significance of solar-thermal power generation in the Middle East and North Africa is also growing.
"Besides Egypt where our subsidiary Flagsol is realising the first parabolic trough solar field together with the Egyptian general contractor, Orascom Construction Industries, power plant projects or public tenders have also been undertaken by the authorities in Algeria, Morocco, Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Therefore, the first OPEC countries are placing their stake in this technology, which allows to supply solar power in large quantities, in an economical and a plannable way. The motivation for the worldwide change in energy policy is the increasing awareness of how limited oil and gas resources are," he said.
"A growing market volume will increase the number of suppliers. I believe that a thriving marketplace is emerging. The quantity of market participants is growing. A situation of growing competition makes the effect of lower costs of electricity production in long term," added Moormann.
As far as the likes of Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Israel and the UAE are concerned, some power plant projects or public tenders have been undertaken in these countries.
"The MENA region will be one of the next most important markets after Spain and the USA. Due to the higher solar radiation in North Africa, a solar thermal power plant located there can generate three times the energy that would be possible in Germany, for the same investment. To secure the energy supplies in Europe, it could be possible to cover 10-25 percent of the European energy demand using solar thermal power plants in the MENA region by 2050. Importing energy from solar thermal power plants in North Africa gives Europe the possibility to effectively secure its power supply on a long-term basis through a greater mix of different energy sources. This is the ideal way to combine environmental sustainability and reliability of supply," said Moormann.
As far as the US market is concerned, it is felt that the industry quickly needs support in terms of long-term plans to expand and improve its ageing transmission infrastructure and update it with smart-grid technology as this will allow the industry to get solar power from high-resource areas like the Southwest to high population centers.
"Every market needs electricity supplies secured to the highest possible degree. Preconditions are modern transmission infrastructure and a smart-grid technology. In particular solar thermal power plants and other renewable energies need an extension and modernization of the grid. Access to the grid is a necessary requirement for every site," said Moormann.
On a call for fast-track review and approval of permits for environmentally friendly solar energy plants on federal lands (US), Moormann said, "We appreciate every improvement and speed-up in the permission process and work intensively together with all institutions and policy makers in USA. Especially we are pleased by the prolongation of the investment tax credits in the USA, the extension of the Renewable Portfolio Standards in California to 33 percent until 2020 and the creation of a Renewable Energy Action Team to speed-up permission processes of renewable energy projects."
The pertinently timed CSP, CPV and Thin Film Technologies Summit MENA will be taking place in Abu Dhabi on June 2-3 2009, and promises to address many of these issues.