The study, by environmental group Greenpeace, the European Solar

Thermal Electricity Association (ESTELA) and the International Energy

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Agency’s (IEA) SolarPACES group, said huge investments would also

create jobs and fight climate change.

“Solar power plants are

the next big thing in renewable energy,” said Sven Teske of Greenpeace

International and co-author of the report. The technology is suited to

hot, cloudless regions such as the Sahara or Middle East.

The

28-page report said investments in concentrating solar power (CSP)

plants were set to exceed 2 billion euros ($2.80 billion) worldwide

this year, with the biggest installations under construction in

southern Spain and California.

“Concentrating solar power could

meet up to 7 percent of the world’s projected power needs in 2030 and a

full quarter by 2050,” it said of the most optimistic scenario.

That assumes a giant surge in investments to 21 billion euros a year by

2015 and 174 billion a year by 2050, creating hundrds of thousands of

jobs. Under that scenario, solar plants would have installed capacity

of 1,500 gigawatts by 2050.

That is far more optimistic than

business-as-usual projections by the Paris-based IEA, which advises

rich nations. It indicates that “by 2050 the penetration of solar power

would be no higher than 0.2 percent globally,” the report noted.

CSP uses arrays of hundreds of mirrors or lenses to concentrate the

sun’s rays to temperatures between 400 and 1,000 Celsius (750-1,800

Fahrenheit) to provide energy to drive a power plant.

SUNNY

It differs from solar photovoltaics, which turn the sun’s rays directly

into electricity in panels and generate some power even on overcast

days. CSP works only under sunny skies.

“We now have a third billion-dollar technology alongside wind and solar photovoltaics,” Teske told Reuters.

The report said generation costs range from 0.15 to 0.23 euros per

kilowatt hour — above fossil fuels or many renewables — and would

fall to 0.10-0.14 euros by 2020. Guaranteed sales prices were needed to

spur investments, it said.

CSP installations made up just 430 Megawatts of the world’s electricity generation capacity at the end of 2008.

“CSP plants can deliver reliable industry-scale power supply around the

clock due to storage technologies and hybrid operations within the

power plant,” said Jose Nebrera, president of ESTELA. (For Reuters

latest environment blogs click on: blogs.reuters.com/environment/) (Editing by Richard Williams),

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