Environmental News
Green Living Tips Button
We now accept Pay Pal

Solar FAQs — Concentrating Solar Power — Benefits

Q: What are the environmental impacts of concentrating solar power plants (CSP)?

A: Concentrating solar power plants have few environmental impacts; land use is the primary one. Although a CSP plant's "footprint," or the amount of land it occupies, is larger than that of a fossil fuel plant, the two actually use about the same amount of land. This is true because fossil fuel plants require a significant amount of land for exploration, mining, and road-building purposes. And CSP plants have the advantage in that they produce no environmental contaminants or greenhouse gases. However, the fossil fuel component of a hybrid power plant does not have the same benefits.

Other Resources: 

Q: What are the advantages of using concentrating solar power (CSP) rather than other power generation technologies?

A: One key competitive advantage of CSP systems is that they closely resemble most of the nation's current power plants in some important ways. For example, much of the equipment now used for conventional, centralized power plants running on fossil fuels can also be used for CSP plants. CSP simply substitutes the use of concentrated solar power rather than combustible fossil fuels to produce electricity. This "evolutionary" — in contrast to "revolutionary" or "disruptive" — aspect means CSP can be integrated fairly easily into today's electric utility grid. It also makes CSP technologies the most cost-effective solar option for large-scale electricity generation.

For example, CSP can make a significant contribution to the increasing need for affordable electricity in California and other "sunshine" states. The nine Solar Energy Generating Station (SEGS) plants in southern California were constructed in less than a year each, and the final two plants each had a capacity of 80 megawatts. The SEGS plants have already demonstrated a production capacity of 200 megawatts per year; this could be reestablished in two years, providing local jobs and a boost to the manufacturing economy. If a few —even four or five —developers began implementing this technology in the southwestern United States, more than 20,000 megawatts could be online by 2020, according to some experts.

Other Resources: 

Q: What is the benefit of continuing federal support for research and development in concentrating solar power?

A: Concentrating solar power is fast approaching commercial viability, and the U.S. industry is actively seeking commercial projects. To ensure the success of initial power plants and enable large-scale construction of additional ones, the industry requires continuous access to the research base that forms the foundation of CSP plant designs. Eliminating federal support for CSP at this stage could disrupt plans to build critically important, much-needed new commercial plants. Continued funding assures that the benefits of earlier U.S. investments will not be lost, and that future U.S. solar power plant capacity will be provided by a healthy domestic industry.

Other Resources: 

U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20585
www.eere.energy.gov www.energy.gov