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1. Just how much electricity does the world use?

Electric power plants produced 17,320 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2005. In 2030, the world is projected to need about 33,264 TWh nearly double the amount of 2005. (Source : 2008 EIA International Energy Outlook Report.)

2. How much energy does the sun provide?

The amount of sunlight that hits the Earth’s surface in one hour is enough to power the entire world for a year.

3. How many solar power plants would the India need to meet its electrical needs?

Solar Power Plants

One solar power plant, using Digital Consummate technology, covering 150 miles by 150 miles, would generate enough power to meet all the electrical needs of India through 2030.

4. What is concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) technology?

Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV) Technology

Much like using a magnifying glass to concentrate light, concentrated solar systems use lenses or reflectors to concentrate sunlight onto highly efficient solar cells. By concentrating the light onto a single high efficiency cell, the technology vastly reduces the amount of traditional solar cell area needed to produce electricity, Multi-junction; high efficiency cells allow CPV systems to generate the same amount of electricity as traditional flat-panel PV systems while using up to 5 to 6 times less solar cell material.

5. How does a concentrated solar-thermal power (CSP) plant work?

Concentrated Solar-thermal power (CSP) Plantwork

It works just like a coal steam power plant, with the difference that concentrated solar power is used for stream production, instead of coal. Large mirrors are positioned in such a way that they reflect and concentrate the sunlight onto a certain point much like capturing sunlight through a magnifying lens. A major advantage of this technology is that a part of the sun’s heat can be collected in heat storage tanks during the day and then run through steam circuits at night or specifically during peak hours, depending on the demand. With this technology, renewable and controlled energy can be provided according to the demand of the electricity grid.

6. What will solar power imports in 2010 really cost?

The costs depend on the location of the production and length of the transmission lines. Exact figures for specific projects have to be determined individually. The figures stated between 6.5 c/kWh (with steady cash value from 2000) by the DLR study and 16 c/kWh by the industrial association ESTELA SOLAR are mere estimates and do not necessarily contradict each other because they are referring to different segments of the world market. The industry calculates on delivering top-level and middle-load capacities in the range of 2000 to 4000 full-load hours of capacity per year.

This is the current state of technology. Compensating and regulating energy generates higher revenues than base loaders. However, it costs more because of the low utilization of the turbines. In the TRANS-CSP study however, the DLR has concluded that a considerable proportion (5000 to 7000 capacity hours) will be allocated to solar energy at the base loaders. Thus, a substantial amount of carbon dioxide can be avoided. Base loaders generate less revenue and cost significantly less thanks to the turbines being utilized to a greater extent.

7. Isn’t the water demand for the cooling and cleaning of the solar-thermal power plants a problem?

In arid regions, conventional oil, gas or coal fired steam cycles are usually air-cooled, and CSP plants can be operated in the same way. Solar-thermal power plants can be cooled by air, and there are cleaning procedures that require very little water. Depending on the location, evaporation cooling towers and seawater cooling may be used because they are more cooling may be used because they are more efficient than air-cooling techniques. If saltwater from nearby coasts is used instead of drinking water for the cooling units, a 250MW collector field may be used to operate a 200MW turbine and 100,000 m3 of drinking water may be produced a day (Over four million liters per hour) through the process of water desalination.

8. Can the mirrors withstand the harsh desert conditions and sandstorms?

Solar-thermal power plants have been operating in the Mojave Desert for over 20 years and have withstood hailstorms, sandstorms and cyclones. In the event of impending danger, the mirrors, which are rotatable, can be positioned in such a manner that they are protected. Should the mirrors break nonetheless (0.4% per year), replacements are part of the operating costs. Signs of wear and tear on the mirrors in Kramer junction have not been an issue for the last 20 years. Today, the power plants work more efficiently as operating and maintenance methods are now better than when operations began.