Sustainable Energy

Will CSP and Ocean Energy become the next booming technologies?

Mention renewable energy and the first examples most people think of are hydroelectric power, wind power, photovoltaic panels, and various types of biomass. These are indeed the renewable technologies that have been implemented on the largest scale in recent years. But with the ever increasing quest for renewable energy that can help mitigate climate change and reduce oil dependency, a new generation of renewable technologies could very well experience a market boom in the upcoming years.

These include Wave Power and Concentrated Solar Power (CSP). As is often the case, their technological concept is not new, but up to now the market conditions had not been right for large scale deployment. Those market conditions have now become favourable for Wave Power in Ireland and Portugal and for CSP in Spain. Other countries are expected to follow soon.

Ambitious targets for wave power

In Ireland, Eamon Ryan, the Minister for Communication, Energy, and Natural Resources has set the target of 500 MW of Wave Energy installed by 2020. Portugal has set a similar target of 550 MW by 2020. Both countries hope to ignite the wave power market by setting an attractive feed-in tariff — €0.22/kWh in Ireland and €0.23/kWh in Portugal.

Nevertheless, both of those targets seem very ambitious, given that the first large scale commercial wave power plant has yet to go into operation. The construction of the 2.25 MW wave power plant in Povoa de Varzim, Portugal, experienced significant delays, although the final part of the project is currently in the commissioning phase.

Hopefully, the government support being provided in both countries will allow the technology to overcome the bulk of its teething problems. If that happens, wave power could very well start conquering the world at fast pace.

Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) booming in Spain

Even more significant than the emergence of Wave Power is the new attention being given Concentrated Solar Power (CSP). This technology has an enormous potential, although it is limited to hot and sunny regions. Unlike PV systems, CSP does not make sense in a temperate or cold climate.

According to ESTELA, the European association of CSP sector, 62,000 MW of CSP could be installed by 2030 in Southern Europe. The generated power would be around 176 TWh/year, which represents approximately 5% of the estimated power that will be generated in the EU by 2030.

Currently, Spain is the only country that has created stable market conditions for CSP, setting a feed-in tariff of €0.25/kWh. The Spanish net operator has already accepted grid access for 500 MW of CSP units, to be ready for operation by 2010. Grid access has been demanded for another 4,700 MW of CSP projects. Even if only a fraction of those projects receives permission, this could very well be the start of a worldwide CSP boom. The US market is already expected to follow the Spanish example soon.

What’s the added value of off-shore CSP?

The world is, of course, welcoming every new renewable energy technology that has the potential to fulfil our energy needs at reasonable cost. But this does not mean that all new concepts are viable; let alone having the potential to substantially change the energy landscape.

The United Arab Emirates have initiated the development of ‘Solar Islands’, which could be defined as off-shore CSP. The idea is to use CSP technology to produce hydrogen and electricity on artificial floating islands in the sea. On its face, the prototype design looks spectacular. But sceptics can be forgiven for questioning whether or not this concept is the most efficient way to pursue CSP. Why build off-shore, when the Arabian Peninsula has an ample supply of empty deserts? Sea water is extremely corrosive to almost all metals (stainless steel, aluminium, and even titanium), and unlike wind energy, solar energy is not more concentrated off-shore than it is on-shore. Moreover, the energy will have to be transported on land via either long cables (electricity) or barges (hydrogen), bringing with it all of the energy losses normally associated with these methods. Security and maintenance will also be more difficult to manage off-shore.

It seems to me that this whole Solar Islands project comes close to a greenwash. Or am I missing something here?

References

  • Article ‘Ireland launches marine power initiative’ on CleanTech
  • Article ‘A floating solar island for the UAE’ on EcoGeek
  • Article ‘Irish Waves Generate Electricity’ on Renewable Energy World
  • Article ‘Concentrated Solar Power and Energy Storage’ on Leonardo ENERGY
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Comments

  1. I really like the idea of water generated energy, I read, a few weeks ago, an article saying that some sources of water energy can generate more power than a nuclear power plant; that is pretty impressive, I think!

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