Brussels, 03 Mar 2005
The Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) project ECOSTAR has drawn up a roadmap for making solar electricity competitive, citing research results indicating that the cost of creating power in this way can be reduced from the current 15 to 20 cent/kWh to between 5 and 5 cent/kWh.
Solar electricity is non-polluting and does not require the use of restricted resources, such as oil or coal. It can be used to provide power on demand, even after sunset if concentrating solar power (CSP) systems are combined with thermal energy storage. Nevertheless, the cost of creating solar electricity at the moment means that it is not yet competitive in comparison with electricity from conventional power plants.
The ECOSTAR project, coordinated by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), and bringing together partners from France, Israel, Russia, Spain and Switzerland, assessed how costs could be brought down in order to make solar electricity a viable alternative to traditional energy technologies.
The project identified a number of innovations relevant for cost reduction, involving elements such as oil, salt, steam, air and a dish. But before this new knowledge can be translated into products and the deployment of solar electricity technology, a number of issues must first be addressed, according to the ECOSTAR partners.
These issues relate to research efforts, strategies and excellence, the building of a global market and the setting of a political framework.
'If the predicted cost reductions triggered by technical innovations shall play off its full potential in the next 15 years, a significant increase in RTD [research and technological development] efforts is required to be introduced in the Seventh Framework Programme,' states the project's roadmap document.
Also essential is the alignment of research strategies and goals, which the ECOSTAR partners believe is being addressed, to an extent, through its roadmap. The next stage must be the adjustment of national and industry goals so that the highest possible impact can be achieved with limited resources, states the document.
Experts from other sectors also need to become more involved in developing solar electricity, the project found. Further expertise from companies specialised in glass, reflectors, light weight structures and plastic for outdoors, is particularly in demand, as are experts from the chemical industry, large construction companies, companies specialised in mass production and logistics, and technical supervising companies.
Finally, a new political framework must be introduced, according to the roadmap: Renewable electricity incentive schemes should be adjusted in order to address the inadequate consideration of solar power, and legal frameworks should be made more flexible in order to allow the hybrid operation of CSP systems.
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