Monday, October 18, 2010

Are Solar Thermal Power Plants Doomed? : Greentech Media

Are Solar Thermal Power Plants Doomed? : Greentech Media

Again, PV is cheaper today, and expected to widen its edge over the next decade. By 2020, the CSP technologies are expected to be in the $0.10-$0.12/kWh range, whereas PV is forecast between $0.07-$0.08/kWh.

he relentless price declines of PV panels allows developers to build PV plants at a lower cost than their CST cousins. This issue is illustrated in the following Capital Cost per watt chart (an excerpt from the upcoming GTM Research "CSP Report"). In 2010, the price to build a CSP park run by Troughs, Power Towers or Dish-Engines will cost between $5.00 and $6.55 per watt (AC). On the other hand, utility-scale PV projects can limbo below $3.50 a watt (DC).

By 2020, the CSP solutions are expected to be in the $2.40-$3.80 per watt (AC) range, but by that time PV plants could be below $2 a watt (DC). Trough & Tower plants are behind PV, and not likely to catch up.

There is a role for solar thermal. If it is North Africa, that is fantastic," said Travis Bradford, founder of the Prometheus Institute and a professor at the University of Chicago. "But the difference (in the amount of total energy that will be produced by utility solar parks) between solar thermal and PV will be at least an order of magnitude. Maybe two." That is to say that if PV will see annual installations of 20,000 MW per year in the middle of this decade, perhaps CST will be more in the realm of 200-2,000 MW per year. Not a particularly rosy outlook.

It's like that old, painful axiom in semiconductors.

Don’t bet against silicon.

PS - for a clarification on our categorization scheme, see diagram below

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