Progress Energy will take part in a new study of "hybrid" power plants that combine solar thermal power with traditional coal and natural gas generation, the Electric Power Research Institute announced Monday.
The study will look at the cost and feasibility of adding solar thermal fields to fossil-fuel-burning power plants and will be conducted at two power plants in Arizona and Nevada.
Solar thermal works by harnessing heat from the sun to produce steam to turn the turbines that produce electricity. Fossil-fuel plants work by burning fuels like natural gas and coal to create the needed heat.
Solar thermal could work by either increasing the power output of traditional power plants or by offsetting the need for natural gas "peaking" plants used to run surging air conditioning loads on hot summer afternoons.
Progress Energy, based in Raleigh N.C. and parent of St. Petersburg's Progress Energy Florida, is one of a handful of energy companies sponsoring the research.