Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

**UPDATE: We're thrilled to have launched a brand-new website! Check it out here:

Environment China is a weekly bilingual podcast from the Beijing Energy Network. The show features conversations with advocates, entrepreneurs, and experts working in the environmental field in China.  We are looking to learn how they do their work, what new strategies and solutions they have found, and why now is the right time for real and positive changes in China’s environmental field.

If you like Environment China, you can subscribe on iTunes here, as well as on other podcast apps, such as Stitcher and Overcast. We also invite you to subscribe to our feed on libsyn here. And if you really like Environment China, you can leave us a comment on iTunes — we really appreciate your support!

Listen to the latest episodes below!

May 2, 2021

Today, we’re talking about a type of clean energy that doesn’t get much attention these days: concentrating solar power. For the past decade, solar photovoltaic or PV panels have dominated the world solar market, and China has installed over 200 GW of PV, currently adding a whopping 40 GW of PV every year. Distinct from PV, concentrating solar power, or CSP, takes a bunch of different forms: long troughs of mirrors that heat a central element such as a pipe filled with water or molten salt, power towers surrounded by fields of mirrors called heliostats, and a couple others. Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) technologies use mirrors to track the sun and reflect and concentrate its light onto a ‘receiver’, where it is converted into heat. This heat can be used to produce electrical power with a conventional steam turbine and generator, or as industrial process heat. That’s a big advantage over PV, which just produces electricity directly, but doesn’t create high heat. CSP also has great potential for on-site energy storage, which is becoming more important as solar grows.

We’re talking today with two long-time friends of BEN:

Alina Gilmanova, of China’s Key Laboratory of Solar Thermal Energy and Photovoltaic Systems, Institute for Electrical Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences;


Jorrit Gosens, Research Fellow on Energy Transitions at the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University. (Also noted for the China Energy Portal,

Alina and Jorrit recently published a paper (with Johan Lilliestam) on CSP in China entitled: “Windows of opportunity for catching up in formative clean-tech sectors and the rise of China in concentrated solar power,” in Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions. The link to the journal article is:

For those without subscription, a freely available pre-print version of the paper can be found here:

Guide to the discussion:

2:13 - Alina talks about the history of CSP in various countries and China

5:23 - Alina describes the relative degree of CSP's technology maturity

7:27 - Alina discusses the dominant design for CSP today and the move in China towards tower technology

9:45 - Jorrit discusses the factors that make different technologies more or less susceptible to technology catch-up, especially now that it's recognized that developing countries like China don't need to wait until a technology reaches maturity 

12:40 - Jorrit discusses how CSP compares on those factors that enable catch-up

14:27 - Jorrit discusses how they decided to write this study and why CSP is special in terms of catch-up

16:30 - Jorrit describes the concept of a window-of-opportunity for catch-up, and how CSP fits into this idea

18:11 - Anders, Jorrit, and Alina discuss whether the connection to coal boiler technology motivated Chinese companies to enter the CSP field

22:11 - Anders asks if the bankruptcy of all the competing players inherently led to "catch-up"

24:30 - Alina discusses the role of energy storage in China CSP; references paper on economics of storage using CSP vs PV+battery: "Making the Sun Shine at Night," 2021, at

26:20 - Alina discusses the present economics of CSP in China and whether there is a path forward

27:09 - Alina discusses China's go-abroad strategy for CSP

29:53 - Jorrit explains his view of whether CSP offers lessons for other developing countries considering industrial policy to foster new industries in clean energy

Another useful resource:

Open CSP data base with all  CSP projects worldwide (, also at:

Johan Lilliestam, Richard Thonig, Chuncheng Zang, & Alina Gilmanova (2021). (Version 2021-01-01) [Data set]. Zenodo.