In my last entry we looked at how Spain is leading the world in the deployment of concentrating solar power. Dozens of other countries are now constructing concentrating power plants or are planning to do so. (To keep up to date see http://www.trec-uk.org.uk/news/news2010.html ). Also there are a number of technological advances going on, some of which claim to significantly lower costs and so should facilitate the global roll-out. The parabolic trough is the commonest configuration of mirrors to date, but several alternatives exist and the following three are, I believe, ones to watch out for.
e-Solar is a new company, founded in California in 2007, opened it’s first, and so far only, solar power station, the 5Mw Sierra Sun Tower, at Lancaster, California, in the summer of 2009. By working with Google to develop and improve the software guiding the precision of the solar tracking heliostats, and using smaller heliostats and a modular system of power towers they claim to have significantly raised efficiency and cut costs. They have now partnered with big companies to develop the technology globally. ( See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ESolar )
Wizard Power is an Australian company set-up in 2005 to commercially develop csp concepts originating from Australian National University in Canberra. They have developed Big Dish technology and are about to start construction of their first power station, the 40Mw Whyalla Solar Oasis, at Whyalla, South Australia. (see http://www.wizardpower.com.au/ )
Ausra developed the Compact Linear Fresnel Reflector first deployed in stages between 2004 and 2008 to provide 2 Mw of pre-heat steam to the Liddell coal power station, Australia, followed in 2009 by the 5 Mw Kimberlina Solar Power Plant, California. Ausra then got into financial trouble and were taken over by Areva the American nuclear power company. (see http://www.ausra.com/ )
All three of these companies are at present relatively small but have interesting and innovative technologies with which they may help concentrating solar power become the major source of clean energy which we all need it to become.