Saturday, April 5, 2008

CSP Heats Up

There has been a beehive of activity on the concentrated solar power (CSP, aka big solar) front over the past week. Lets start with a comprehensive 145 page report on CSP by the Prometheus Institute and Greentech Media. The executive summary accompanies this press release. The report provides an excellent overview on the state of the various kinds of CSP technologies, the current market conditions, and Here are some key findings of the report, as presented in the press release:
  • CSP clearly has a role to play over the next decade. With the current plants, those in construction, those under consideration, and the pace of development, it is clear that some tens of GW of cumulative production over the next decade - possibly as much as 50 GW - of CSP capacity will be installed by 2020.
  • PV will remain dominant in the distributed market. That said, flat plate PV for distributed applications and some fixed or single-axis tracking systems for central systems will remain economically competitive. Unless CSP technologies can match those of PV, the distributed market will be tough for CSP technology to penetrate.
  • Centralized generation market up for grabs. While each of the technologies has core markets that they best serve, it is where these markets overlap that is most interesting for evaluating competition for solar technologies.
The report indicates that it will be at least another decade before centralized CSP achieves "grid parity," and that in the meantime, distributed PV will continue to be dominant. So why the flurry of investment activity in CSP recently (see list of some recent deals below)? One explanation for all the utility-scale CSP deal making of late is the adoption of Renewable Portfolio Standards throughout the increasing majority of states in the U.S., that require utilities to distribute a certain minimum percentage of their power from renewable energy sources.

Reported utility-scale CSP projects reported over the last week:
  • Brightsource and PG&E sign a 900MW solar thermal deal.
  • Florida-based FPL to build a $1 billion, 250MW solar power plant in the California Mojave Desert.
  • Israeli-based Solel to build a 140 million manufacturing facility in southern Spain.

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