According to the Mehr Iran news agency, Iranian energy minister Parviz Fattah said: “The country backs the use of alternative and renewable energy sources. In future alternative energy sources will be greatly developed in the country. The growth of investments in this sphere is expected.”
The solar radiation hitting the Earth contains around 10,000 times the energy needs of the world’s population. CSP is seen by many as a simpler, cheaper and more efficient way to harness the sun’s energy than other methods such as photovoltaic panels. But it only works in places with clear skies and strong sunshine. As such, large CSP plants of up to 20mw each are already in construction in the sunnier parts of the world.
Spanish firms, in particular, are moving quickly with CSP: more than 50 solar projects around Spain have been approved for construction by the government and, by 2015, the country will generate more than 2GW of power from CSP, comfortably exceeding current national targets. The companies there are also exporting their technology to Morocco, Algeria and the US.
At present the Iranian plant is small (just 250KW, probably enough for just over 200 family homes while the sun is shining) but the locally-
built mirrors join thousands of smaller-scale solar-thermal installations already in place around the country.
Whether Iran has plans to build bigger solar plants or add photovoltaic panels to those plans is unclear, but an ambitious move in this direction would be a good idea. Not only because the region has a huge resource of sunlight falling onto it, so tapping even a small proportion of that would be a cheap and clean way to provide energy for the country. But, just perhaps, solar plants could also placate those international observers that are suspicious of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s nuclear plans.