solar thermal electric

Concentrated solar thermal power: 24 GW by 2020

According to a new market report by CSP Today and Altran, concentrated solar power (CSP) will be concentrated in two key markets in the next ten years: Spain and USA. The USA is currently the largest market as measured by installed capacity with 63%. However, most new projects under construction (88%) are located in Spain, which highlights the effectiveness of feed-in-tariffs in encouraging the adoption of CSP.

Worldwide there are currently 679 MW of installed CSP capacity and more than 2000 MW under construction. The new Global Concentrated Solar Power Industry Report written by Altran Technologies and commissioned by CSP Today reveals that in terms of installed capacity the USA is the largest market holding a 63% market share, followed by Spain with 32% of operating capacity. According to this recent report these two markets will continue to be crucial for the development of the industry into the next decade, with Spain accounting for the largest share of projects under construction with almost 89%. Further growth is expected across markets in the Middle East and North Africa such as Israel, the UAE, Jordan, Morocco, Algeria and Egypt.

Although a thriving industry, CSP is still dependant on government support for growth given the fact that it is up to four times more expensive than energy produced by fossil fuels. The solar field represents the largest share of the cost of any CSP plant. Depending on the technology solar field costs could vary from around 43% for power tower and Fresnel technologies, to almost 60% for parabolic troughs and Stirling dishes. The report concludes that the most significant cost reductions are likely to come about by innovations in solar field design, which could bring down the levelised cost of energy (LCOE) by 15% to 28% depending on the technology.

According to this latest research, the CSP market will continue to be dominated by parabolic trough technology, which accounts for 88% of operating plants and 97.5% of projects under construction. The findings show the preference for parabolic troughs is due to the fact that it is the only technology proven to perform after 20 years on the ground, as testified by the SEGS parabolic troughs which are still operating since their installation in the 1980s.

Despite the dominance of the parabolic trough, the report reveals Tower technology is making headway into the CSP market with 5% of operating capacity. For many, the power tower represents the next step in CSP technology and many of its proposed variants could bring about significant increases in efficiency and annual electricity yield. However, a lack of practical experience with utility scale projects seems to be holding this technology back.

The Global Concentrated Solar Power Industry Report providing in-depth analysis on electricity supply and demand, how seasonal variations in solar resources have an effect on the number of hours a CSP plant operates, reducing costs, thermal storage technologies and much more, will be released on 23 November and is available for pre-order from the CSP Today website.

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