Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) slipped from an all-time high in production of 885 GWh in 2008 to 862 GWh in 2009. New capacity becoming operational in 2010 pushed production to 1121 GWh and an estimated 1475 GWh in 2011. The wholesale value from this technology, also known as Solar Thermal power, generated $68 USD million in 2008, $102 million in 2009, to $362 million in 2010. 2011 sales should top a half billion dollars at an estimated $545 million.
The cost of the installed base of CSP at the end of 2011 is estimated at $9.5 billion. Of that roughly 93% of the installed base value is in parabolic trough technology. By 2015, that percentage is forecast to drop to 70% as power tower, also called central receiving station technology, becomes more common. The other two CSP technologies, linear Fresnel reflector and the Stirling engine/dish design are decidedly lacking although there are a few small projects going forward.
The seemingly smooth upward curve of CSP productions hides some facts that will impinge future growth. At least 2,250 MW of planned CSP capacity was suddenly switched to PV due to the lower installation costs of PV, among other reasons. Also hidden by the high Spanish feed-in tariff is the somewhat low capacity of the plants in Spain due to less than ideal solar resources. Due to the global debt crisis, Spain had considered cutting its artificially high feed-in tariff, but to preserve investor confidence, has chosen to delay bringing some plants online and limiting the output of others.
Thermal energy storage (TES) became a big topic in 2011 with demonstrations of 24 hour generation at a plant in Spain less than four months after startup. Seven to eight hours' storage appears to be the norm for parabolic trough plants at a cost of roughly an additional 10-11 % of the plant cost but can yield capacity factors over 50%, a key to profitability. Power towers operating at higher temperatures can achieve 10- 15 hours storage at a slightly less cost penalty.
New development and construction activities will intensify in 2012 in Australia, India, and China. China has licensed technology from eSolar and plans to build 2 GW of combined CSP/biomass plants in the next decade. India too has created a 20 GW by 2020 solar wish list. Australia continues to study the technology and is building a world study center of power tower technology.
As 2011 ends, the global capacity of utility-scale CSP will be right at 2 GW with approximately another 2500 to 3500 MW to be operational in 2012, depending on several factors. While some forecasters believe the US concentrating solar power capacity alone will reach 6 GW by 2015, SBI Energy analysis points to factors that suggest an installation rate that while consistent with the opportunities CSP represents, is more indicative of the current global economic and political realities. These factors include the events known as the Islamic Spring, the overall lingering economic doldrums, and current photovoltaic pricing wars as well as utility concerns regarding implementation of renewables on a large scale. While these concerns are not permanent, they will retard implementation of CSP for a few years.
CSP Energy tends to be CSP installation has been directly linked to government interest in the technology. CSP Global Markets provides insight into the current and future utility scale electrical generation CSP markets at both the plant and component level, with particular attention to the solar field elements which represent over 50% of the plant's cost. For every major component, global market size is provided and forecast through 2020 based on the SBI Energy's evaluation of the factors affecting the market growth as a whole.
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