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even grid-connected applications such as building-integrated PV (BIPV) have become cost-effective. As a result, the worldwide growth in PV production has averaged over 30% per year from 2000 to 2003, with Germany showing the maximum growth of over 51% (Table 1.6; Figure 1.10).

Solar thermal power using concentrating solar collectors was the first solar technology that demonstrated its grid power potential. A 354 MWe solar thermal power plant has been operating continuously in California since 1988. Progress in solar thermal power stalled after that time because of poor policy and lack of R&D. However, the last five years have seen a resurgence of interest in this area and a number of solar thermal power plants around the world are under construction. The cost of power from these plants (which is so far in the range of 12-16 U.S. cents/kWh) has the potential to go down to 5 U.S. cents/kWh with scale-up and creation of a mass market. An advantage of solar thermal power is that thermal energy can be stored efficiently and fuels such as natural gas or biogas may be used as backup to ensure continuous operation. If this technology is combined with power plants operating on fossil fuels, it has the potential to extend the time frame of the existing fossil fuels.

Low temperature solar thermal systems and applications have been well developed for quite some time. They are being actively installed wherever policies favor their deployment. Figure 1.11 gives an idea of the rate of growth of solar thermal systems in the world (ESTIF 2000). Just in 2003, over 10 MWth solar collectors were deployed around the world, a vast majority of those being in China (Figure 1.12).

1.4.9 Biomass

Although theoretically harvestable biomass energy potential is on the order of 90 TW, the technical potential on a sustainable basis is on the order of 8-13 TWor 270-450 exajoules/year (UNDP 2004). This potential is 3-4 times the present electrical generation capacity of the world. It is estimated that by 2025, even municipal solid waste (MSW) alone could generate up to 6 exajoules/year (UNDP 2004).

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