Concentrated Solar Power: A Sustainable Initiative

With the ever increasing demand for power in rapidly growing cities throughout the country, there stands a pressing need to look for alternative, sustainable ways of harnessing energy. A recent NRDC report shows that Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), a specific-type of solar energy system involving mirrors and concentrated solar light, could be a key tool in achieving a secure and diversified energy future for India. An article, discusses the progress of one of the industries that is tracking CSP projects over the last two years.

Under the country’s ambitious solar program, the National Solar Mission (NSM), India has jumpstarted its solar energy industry, fostering growth in both photovoltaic (PV) projects and CSP, also known as solar thermal. Before the Mission began, CSP projects only provided 8.5 megawatts (MW) of energy. Two years later, the large-scale CSP projects now underway in India will provide a projected 500 MW of clean, reliable energy under the NSM. Given the short time frame of the Mission, these numbers are impressive. In a matter of just a few short years, solar in India has gone from a small market to a significant provider of renewable electricity. And there is even more untapped potential just around the corner.

Unlike traditional solar panels, CSP projects involve systems of mirrors that concentrate a large area of sunlight onto a small area of contained liquid. The liquid heats up, emits steam, and a turbine and electrical power generator convert the steam to electricity.This means that in the future, CSP could facilitate electricity storage, rather than energy available only when the sun is shining. As a result, large-scale CSP could provide several potential benefits for India’s energy mix. CSP would help India meet its base-load energy needs, and could be called upon for supplemental electricity during times of peak usage. All this contributes to greater grid stability, meaning that CSP could help avoid another colossal blackout like we saw this summer, when trains stalled, businesses ground to a halt, and more than 680 million people went without power around the country. It is important to note that steps are being taken internationally to integrate other forms of solar into the electrical grid to provide more constant sources of energy as well.

There also remains some hurdles that India needs to overcome in order to foster a sustainable solar energy market. Challenges like high initial cost, lack of adequate information, etc. need to be addressed to ensure the long term feasibility of CSP.

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