"The nation that leads the world in creating new energy sources will be the nation that leads the 21st century global economy. America can be that nation. America must be that nation."
• President Barack Obama's 2009 Earth Day Address
There are dozens of new solar thermal power plants currently in development, under construction or in operation around the world. The Southwestern region of the United States is ideally suited to the implementation of solar thermal power plants. It provides a unique combination of highest quality solar radiation, population density and other resources required to build and operate multiple solar thermal power plants.
Power shortages during the summer months in recent years and ambitious environmental initiatives in a number of states have brought about a change in energy policy. Many states currently anticipate a significant increase in reliable, renewable solar energy use. In fact, the broad introduction of solar thermal power plants in Western States such as California, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico could generate more than six times the total electricity needs of the United States.
The Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), which regulates the proportion of regenerative power production in relation to overall power production, are important political tools. Utility companies in California, for example, are therefore required to produce up to 20% of their requirements using renewable energy by 2010, with plans to increase this to 33% by 2020. The environmental protection regulations have been met with widespread compliance, particularly given the enormous increases and volatility in gas and fuel prices in recent years. Currently 24 states have adopted the RPS regulation.
With new records being set for peak electricity loads, as well as power shortages due to higher temperatures and the extensive use of air conditioning units, the power utility companies are being forced to take mid-day and afternoon electricity demand peaks into account. This is precisely when solar thermal power plants are able to meet this peak demand with reliable electricity supplies.
The California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) anticipates 10,000 megawatts of installed solar thermal power plant capacity by 2020 for the state of California alone. The Western Governors' Association (WGA) is also anticipating significant market potential for newly installed solar thermal power plant capacity for the states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada over the next few years.
The Economist - 06/04/2009
Solar-Thermal Technology - The Other Kind of Solar Power