Planning for new concentrated solar power (CSP) development in the U.S. almost disappeared in 2013 as developers turned to smaller, more achievable PV installations.
“The 2013 trend in CSP is that not much has happened,” said GTM Research Solar Analyst Cory Honeyman. “Demand across the country has turned from large-scale projects to those in the range of 1 megawatt to 20 megawatts.”
PV has the advantage in smaller projects because CSP doesn’t readily scale, Honeyman explained, and because “declines in PV module costs have undercut trough and tower technologies and put them at a significant cost disadvantage.”
Three factors enabled CSP’s U.S. growth, according to CSP Alliance Executive Director Tex Wilkins: “Aggressive portfolio standards, the 30 percent federal ITC, and the DOE’s loan guarantee program.” But utilities have filled their RPS portfolios, the ITC’s drop to 10 percent at the end of 2016 pushes the CSP development timeline, and the loan guarantee program isn’t available, he said. “As a result,financing big projects is difficult.”
The GTM Research Q3 2013 U.S. Solar Market Insight report, which will be released at next week’s Greentech Media U.S. Solar Market Insight conference in San Diego, forecasts 802 megawatts of CSP for 2013, including Abengoa’s 280-megawatt Solana Generating Station with storage.
There will be 814 megawatts in 2014, including BrightSource Energy’s 372 megawatt Ivanpah facility, SolarReserve’s 110-megawatt Crescent Dunes tower project with storage, and NextEra Energy’s 250-megawatt Genesis Solar Energy Project.
Beyond that, the picture is less clear. GTM foresees 3 megawatts for 2015, and estimates 340 megawatts in 2016 and 330 megawatts in 2017.
“The question is what will happen after projects with signed PPAs are completed,” Honeyman said. “There will be another wave of already-contracted projects when the ITC drops. But the future of U.S. CSP outside the existing pipeline is murky.”