Concentrating Solar Power - Technology, Cost, and Markets

by Travis Bradford

Concentrating Solar Power - Technology, Cost, and Markets is the industry's most comprehensive research report to date on the burgeoning CSP market. Over the past six months alone, over $30 Billion in investment has been proposed for plants to be constructed in the next several years. The report finds that the sector could amass up to $200 Billion in aggregate investment globally for installations through 2020. That being said, the CSP market segment will remain relatively small compared to the overall solar market dominated by the evolution of flat plate and tracking photovoltaics (PV). A few of the key findings of the report include:

  • 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 full report provides a detailed analysis of such competing market dynamics.

The technologies examined in this report include all currently available and potential technologies near commercialization in CSP for electricity generation. These technologies break down into two general categories, including Concentrating Solar Thermal (CST) and Concentrating Photovoltaic (CPV). The report provides technical and financial analysis of these various technologies and the relevant players in these growing markets. The report covers all technology variations from the system-level through concentrator technologies and power conversion.

Understanding the cost of solar is not enough; the value of the electricity generated versus the cost is what will drive the market economics and technology adoption. Though often thought of as expensive to generate, solar electricity technologies do create electricity at the most valuable time of the day - during peak daylight hours. Therefore, solar energy is by its nature high-value electricity at both the wholesale and retail levels, displacing the need for expensive (often) natural gas fired intermediate power generators that are subject to substantial swings in fuel prices.

How the power is purchased is also important, and two methods have emerged - 1) retail/commercial customers who can buy power to replace the power they currently purchase from utilities, and (2) the utility themselves either directly or through wholesale power markets. The figure below shows the number of companies that this report tracks that are attempting to serve each of those markets.

The report analyzes which technologies will have the largest market share in terms of installations through 2020 for small- (1kW - 100kW), medium- (100kW - 10MW) and large-scale (10MW - 100MW+) deployments. Though CSP will remain a growing market, particularly for utility-scale installations, a forecast of total projected solar installations through 2020 suggests that CSP (combined CST and CPV) will make up less than 10% of the 288GW installed, with the remaining 90+% going to flat plate and tracking PV. CSP has quickly become one of the most heated market segments in all of renewable energy, but it's important to step back and understand how it will grow along with the evolution of PV.

This report provides an excellent resource for companies that want a complete understanding of the CSP market today and going forward. The 145-page report focuses on the impact CSP technologies will have on the solar and broader renewable energy markets through 2020. Complete with more than 130 tables, charts and graphs, it includes:

  • Detailed definitions of the numerous CSP technologies
  • Comprehensive understanding of the markets for CSP
  • In-depth view of the CSP industry, including current and planned capacity, and select company profiles
  • Thorough CSP financial analysis and projections
  • Exhaustive appendices filled with additional supporting data
  • The following thumbnail images provide additional views of pages that are available in the full report. The report's executive summary can be downloaded by submitting your email address below.
Travis Bradford Consultant, President of the Prometheus Institute

Travis Bradford is one of the world’s leading experts on innovative energy technologies, markets, and economics.

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