The following narrative is borrowed directly from a conference promotion - directed at utility employees and financial types. It's rich with seminal ideas that we all need to assimilate.
TreeHugger comment: some forms of 'alternative energy' may soon lose that alternative quality, and others, like distributed versions of solar power, will keep that quality.
"Emissions-free centralized solar power is a good match against peak air conditioning load, and it becomes a more attractive source in view of its independence of shrinking water resources and rising fuel costs.Today, US utilities operate about 420 MW of centralized solar generating capacity in California, Nevada, and Colorado. 80% of this capacity has operated efficiently for over 20 years.
Using today’s technologies, NREL projects that this capacity could jump to 4,000MW, economically, by 2015, and to between 30,000 and 80,000 MW by 2030, depending on the cost of carbon emissions."
Eighty thousand MW of central solar can take a big bite out of Big Coal's projected market share, and trim Coal's day-time baseload role in the US Southwest. Would this be plausible without a water shortage looming? Less so, certainly.
See also: "Electricity Forecast For Today? Partly Solar, With Intermittent Base Load Adjustment Or Demand Management"
Via::PowerMarketers.com "Centralized Solar for Electric Generation", February 13 - 14, 2008 / Denver, CO. Conference brochure can be downloaded here.