By Stephen Bygrave. Climate Spectator, January 30 2014.
With the news that Chile is to join the solar thermal club, Australia could before long become the only inhabited continent without this revolutionary electricity generation technology.
Spanish developer Abengoa is set to build a large solar thermal 'power tower' with a capacity of 110 megawatts for the Chilean government. Solar thermal plants already exist or are actively being developed and constructed, on all other continents.
The solar thermal technology concentrates the sun's free energy with a field of mirrors onto a heat receiver mounted on a central tower, and then uses that heat to generate electricity, and also stores the heat to generate electricity after sundown. The Chilean plant is to have storage capacity for 17.5 hours of operation after sundown, enabling it to provide 24-hour solar power.
That a poorer country like Chile is now building this technology highlights that a wealthy country like Australia should also be building this technology. Figures from the Bureau of Resource and Energy Economics in December show the estimated cost of building solar thermal power plants has fallen 30 per cent in the last year.
Abengoa's 183MW Solucar complex, Seville, Spain. Pic: Abengoa