Clean Power

Published on July 2nd, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan


New Study on Material Constraints of Concentrating Solar Thermal Power (Finding: Not a Problem)

July 2nd, 2012 by  


As you may have noticed in the story on the huge NREL study just published showing that 80% of US electricity could easily come from renewable sources, concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) would play a big part in that. But would such clean technology run into problematic material constraints? A recent study from Swedish researchers examined that. Here’s the study abstract:

“Scaling up alternative energy systems to replace fossil fuels is a critical imperative. Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) is a promising solar energy technology that is growing steadily in a so far small, but commercial scale. Previous life cycle assessments (LCA) have resulted in confirmation of low environmental impact and high lifetime energy return. This work contributes an assessment of potential material restrictions for a large-scale application of CSP technology using data from an existing parabolic trough plant and one prospective state-of-the-art central tower plant. The material needs for these two CSP designs are calculated, along with the resulting demand for a high adoption (up to about 8000 TWh/yr by 2050) scenario. In general, most of the materials needed for CSP are commonplace. Some CSP material needs could however become significant compared to global production. The need for nitrate salts (NaNO3 and KNO3), silver and steel alloys (Nb, Ni and Mo) in particular would be significant if CSP grows to be a major global electricity supply. The possibilities for increased extraction of these materials or substituting them in CSP design, although at a marginal cost, mean that fears of material restriction are likely unfounded.”

If you didn’t catch that last part, there are no serious concerns regarding long-term mineral constraints of CSP.

Good news, and this is certainly a study to keep on hand for

For more, check out: Material constraints for concentrating solar thermal power.



Image Credits: CSP plant via Shutterstock and CSP plant via Dii Desert Energy

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • Rowan

    I wonder why they only did the calculation for 5% of global energy use? Is that because they presume the rest will continue to come from other sources. Wind can only do <6%. The world's biomass would last 26mins at current consumption rates. Uranium reserves 42 days. Or maybe food is the constraint so we won't need as much?

    • Bob_Wallace

      I have no idea what you’re saying.

      Wind can only do <6%? What does that mean?

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