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Solar Thermal: Spain shows the way forward for CSP

Solar thermal power, or concentrated solar power (CSP), can make a sizeable impact on the world’s renewable energy industry, if governments across the globe can maintain supporting policies, says a new report by alternative energy analysts GBI Research.

The firm’s latest report, Solar Thermal Power Market to 2020 - Utilities to Drive Future Developments in the Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) Market, cites government attitudes to CSP as a key determinant to the future success of the relatively young market, which is currently characterised by the high cost of power generation and the challenges of achieving economies of scale. “Government provisions can push forward technological advances and boost installations, which will in turn lower the expense of both project investment and power generation,” notes GBI.

This can be seen in Spain, which leads the CSP market with a massive 65% of the total installed capacity, and the US, which comes in second at 33%, according to the firm . In both countries, the CSP industry benefits from Feed-In Tariffs (FITs), which guarantee premium prices, per kilowatthour of output, over a fixed period of time.

The regulatory framework in the US has also established mandates for utility companies to purchase electricity from renewable sources for domestic consumption. Similarly, the Spanish government has tax rebates for renewable energy investments, and as a result these two countries hold the greatest share of the global solar thermal power market.

“Spain only entered the CSP market in 2007, with the construction of the 11MW PS10 solar tower. Since then the country has raced ahead of the pack and in 2011 boasted a total installed CSP capacity of 1002.2 MW – the largest amount in the world by a significant margin,” says GBI.

Since the US first ventured into CSP back in 1985, growth has been relatively modest but GBI predicts that “with redoubled commitment, the country’s CSP market will increase from 508.5 MW in installed capacity in 2011 to 25,815 MW by 2020, climbing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 63%.” Its forecast, it says, is based on US plans to commission numerous major CSP plants throughout the next decade, including the La Posa Solar Thermal plant and the Ranegras plant, both based in Arizona. 

GBI Research additionally highlights the emerging economies China, India and the United Arab Emirates as drivers of the CSP market. “These nations are recognising the importance of solar energy as a means of achieving energy security and stability – particularly at a time when fossil fuel reserves are depleting and becoming more costly with additional measures to reduce carbon emissions.,” it says. “Many of these countries are also attempting to reduce carbon emissions and are looking to renewables as an alternative.

Solar thermal power projects in the pipeline mean the global CSP market is expected to grow from a 2011 installed capacity total of 1546 MW to 47,462.9 MW in 2020, climbing at a Compound Annual Interest Rate (CAGR) of 44%.

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Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity  •  Solar heating and cooling