Because the U.S. energy use is so immense, it sometimes seems the whole country runs on fossil fuels. But t'ain't so. The U.S. is big in using geothermal energy. While much of Europe is looking to biodiesel, the U.S. produces a lot of controversial ethanol from corn. And today a study shows that the U.S. along with Spain lead the world in developing Concentrated Solar Power (CSP). Other European countries are also working on CSP projects.
CSP doesn't use the familiar silicon wafers to generate electricity. Instead, it uses parabolic mirrors to concentrate the solar energy to heat a medium like oil or salt which then drives generating equipment to produce the electricity. I recently blogged about a proposed CSP plant in South Africa that would be the world's biggest solar generator, if it gets funding.
CSP tech began to grow in the 1990s and the current high energy prices are encouraging a resurgence according to EER, a CambirdgeMass firm that studies global green tech in the energy industry. Two firms are specifically cited in the EER report. One is Spanish-based Abengoa. The other is Acciona which runs a major installation in the Nevada desert.
EER notes that not all is sunny skies ahead for CSP. As always, there are political overtones to this alternative energy. Here's what their report says, "Regulatory hurdles in Spain and the United States present the greatest short term challenge: Spain’s €0.26 feed in tariff is currently limited to 500 MW, and the US Investment Tax Credit is up for renewal in 2008. These support mechanisms are fundamental to the industry’s growth and are essential for the industry to scale."