The report, On the Rise: Solar Thermal Power and the Fight Against Global Warming, concludes that a patch of solar arrays some 100 x 100 miles could power the country. That's slightly more than whats already been excavated for strip mining for coal, the group notes.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has identified the potential for more than 7,000 gigawatts (GW) of concentrating solar power generation on lands in the Southwest more than six times current U.S. electricity consumption. When the sun isn't shining, the plants could release stored energy.
Environment America says concentrating solar power development (especially with mirrors) has accelerated dramatically since the beginning of 2007, with more than 4,000 MW of solar thermal projects in some phase of development nationwide. The group says the cost of energy from solar thermal projects is now competitive with coal-fired power plants that would capture and store their carbon dioxide emissions and with new nuclear power plants.
Not only is solar thermal exceedingly clean, and free of greenhouse gases, but deployment would create many skilled jobs.
However, tax credits that are helping make these projects cost-effective are set to expire at the end of the year, putting their future in jeopardy.
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