Solar thermal technologies as a bridge from fossil fuels to renewables

Dalvi, Vishwanath Haily; Panse, Sudhir V.; Joshi, Jyeshtharaj B.
November 2015
Nature Climate Change;Nov2015, Vol. 5 Issue 11, p1007
Academic Journal
Integrating solar thermal systems into Rankine-cycle power plants can be done with minimal modification to the existing infrastructure. This presents an opportunity to introduce these technologies into the commercial space incrementally, to allow engineers to build familiarity with the systems before phasing out fossil-fuel energy with solar electricity. This paper shows that there is no thermodynamic barrier to injecting solar thermal heat into Rankine-cycle plants to offset even up to 50% fossil-fuel combustion with existing technology: with better solar-to-electricity efficiencies than conventionally deployed solar-thermal power plants. This strategy is economically preferable to installing carbon-capture and compression equipment for mitigating an equivalent amount of greenhouse-gas emissions. We suggest that such projects be encouraged by extending the same subsidy/incentives to the solar-thermal fraction of a 'solar-aided' plant that would be offered to a conventionally deployed solar-thermal power plant of similar capacity. Such a policy would prepare the ground for an incremental solar-thermal takeover of fossil-fuel power plants.


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