A new study from Greenpeace, the European Solar Thermal Agency, and the International Energy Agency’s SolarPACES Group has shown that concentrated solar power (CSP) could generate a quarter of the world’s energy needs by 2050–and create thousands of new jobs and prevent millions of tons of CO2 from being released.
CSP uses mirror to focus sunlight on water. The reaction creates steam that turns turbines and generates electricity. Unlike photovoltaic solar panels, CSP only works in places with reliable sunny weather, such as parts of the southern U.S., North Africa, Mexico, and India.
Sven Teske, co-author of the study, estimates that current investments in CSP ($2.8 billion) could grow under a moderate scenario to over $11 billion by 2010 and produce 7% of the world’s electricity generating capacity. By 2050, investments could grow to $93 billion. This all assumes, of course, that political and investment barriers are removed in short order. But even in a modest scenario, CSP could grow to 830GW of installed capacity by 2050, providing 12% of the world’s power needs. Combined with geothermal and wind farms, alternative energies could provide a significant portion of our overall energy needs in the next few decades.
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