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CSP market threatened by rise of solar PV

The growing market in concentrated solar power (CSP) is being seriously challenged by the dropping price of solar photovoltaics (PV), according to GTM Research.

By Isabella Kaminski

The report by GTM ResearchConcentrating Solar Power 2011: Technology, Costs and Markets – predicts that the CSP market will grow by around US$7 billion over the next two years, but will then tail off. It says that a dramatic decrease in the cost of solar PV panels is already compelling utility companies to choose PV over CSP for future solar plants.

Brett Prior, author of the report and a senior analyst at GTM Research, says the CSP market is ironically experiencing unprecedented growth at the same time as it faces extinction.

Some CSP projects announced between 2007 and 2009 are finally securing financing and will eventually become the largest solar plants the world has ever seen. CSP plants coming online in the next few years will lower prices; the report forecasts CSP project costs to decline between 3% and 7% per year from 2010 to 2020.

However, solar PV costs will also continue their own substantial declines, with solar PV expected to maintain a cost advantage (on both a cost-per-watt and cost-per-kWh basis) through to 2020.

According to the report, 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 Tessera Solar has been forced to lay off employees and sell its flagship Calico project to a solar PV developer.

Prior says that the trend of CSP projects being converted into solar PV is a troubling one and that, in order to turn the tide, CSP developers need to either improve their cost per kWh against PV or to convince utilities to pay extra for storage and dispatchable generation. He says that the future looks bleak for CSP if this does not happen.

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Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Solar electricity