GTM Research forecasts the CSP market to grow from $3 billion in 2011 to over $10 billion by 2013. But beyond 2013, the situation is much less rosy. With 2011 installations slated to reach 472 MW and 2012 forecasted to exceed 1,200 MW, the first wave of global project commissionings brings optimism. However, this optimism will increasingly be mitigated by the competitive, long-term threat posed by solar PV, which continues to reduce its installed cost faster than CSP.

At over 250 pages with more than 140 data-rich exhibits, Concentrating Solar Power 2011: Technology, Costs and Markets examines in detail the state of the industry with an emphasis on project economics (cost per watt and cost per kWh), top markets (U.S., Spain, and China), and a detailed CSP pipeline with over 170 projects globally. The report forecasts CSP and PV costs as well as expected total installations through 2020.

“Paradoxically, while some CSP companies are experiencing unprecedented growth, others are facing extinction,” said Brett Prior, the report’s author and a senior analyst at GTM Research. “Certain projects announced in 2007 to 2009, with signed utility contracts in hand, are finally securing financing, breaking ground and will eventually become the largest solar plants the world has ever seen. However, the future of the industry is at risk due to the dramatic decline in PV panel costs, which is compelling some utilities to select lower-cost PV over CSP for future solar plants.”

The current competitive environment is personified by the opposing fortunes of the industry; BrightSource’s Ivanpah project and Abengoa’s Solana are making significant progress, while early-mover Tessera Solar has been forced to lay off employees and sell its flagship Calico project to a PV developer.

CSP plants coming online in the next few years will undoubtedly help manufacturers move down the experience curve towards lower costs, as GTM Research forecasts CSP project costs to decline 3% to 7% each year in the period 2010 to 2020. However, PV costs will also continue their own substantial declines, with PV expected to maintain a cost advantage (on both a cost-per-watt and cost-per-kWh basis) through 2020.

“The trend of CSP projects being converted into PV projects is a troubling one,” said Prior. “In order to turn the tide, CSP developers need either to improve their cost per kWh against PV or to convince utilities to pay extra for storage and dispatchable generation. Barring one of these outcomes, the future viability of CSP is at risk.”