Concentrating Solar Power Tower In Seville, Spain: The Future Of Electricity

"If you wanted to generate all the world’s electricity, you could do it with less than 1% of the area of the world’s desert." Gerry Wolff, Coordinator of Desertec, makes this statement in this video from the Guardian, "The Challenge Of Solar Power." But if Wolff is correct, why hasn’t it been done yet?

Seville, Spain hosts the first commercial operation of solar tower technology in the world. According to the report, it features over 1,000 freestanding heliostat mirrors that follow the arc of the sun. In a process referred to as Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), the mirrors reflect solar rays to the tower, where water is boiled, and then steam is generated to drive a turbine, which in turn produces electricity. This electricity is sold to the national grid.

This is all possible because Spain’s government has provided subsidies and incentives in support for the solar industry. Without government support, it’s possible that the entire operation could not exist. That is because the upfront investment is huge, as most of the money goes into building the plant. The investor community tends to see solar plants as high risk.

But according to the video report, once economies of scale are achieved, solar power is one of the cheapest sources of energy. The report argues that it’s hard to detect the value of solar power because currently, conventional sources of electricity are subsidized, artificially making them appear to be cheap. GOOD reports that "concentrated solar power… will be a core element of the transition from dirty coal to clean energy."

As Gus Schellekens of PricewaterhouseCoopers argues, "Solar has a huge role it can play, the fact that it’s an endless supply of energy… the one thing that’s needed to unlock much of that is the political leadership and will."