On October 30th 2009, a major industrial consortium initiated the so-called DESERTEC project which aims at providing by 2050 15% of the European electricity from renewable energy sources in North Africa, while at the same time securing energy, water, income and employment for this region. In the heart of this concept are solar thermal power plants which can provide affordable, reliable and dispatchable electricity. While this technology has been known for about 100 years, new developments and market introduction programs have recently triggered world-wide activities leading to the present project pipeline of 8.5 GW and 42 billion Euro. To become competitive with mid-load electricity from conventional power plants within the next 10–15 years, mass production of components, increased plant size and planning/operating experience will be accompanied by technological innovations which are presently in the development or even demonstration stage. The scale of construction, the high temperatures and the naturally transient operation provide formidable challenges for academic and industrial R&D. Experimental and theoretical research involving all mechanisms of heat transfer and fluid flow is required together with large-scale demonstration to resolve the combined challenges of performance and cost.

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