Solar thermal electric power plants generate electricity by converting concentrated solar energy into heat, which is converted to electricity in a conventional thermal power plant. The two major concepts used today are Parabolic Trough power plants and Power Towers. Other concepts, including the Dish Design with a Stirling engine, are under development, but so far no commercial plant has been realised.
After more than 15 years, the first new major capacities of Concentrated Solar Thermal Electricity Plants came online with Nevada One (64 MW15, USA) and the PS 10 plant (11 MW, Spain) in the first half of 2007. In Spain, the Royal Decree 661/2007 dated 25th of March 2007 is a major driving force for the current CSP plant constructions and the ambitious expansion plans. The guaranteed feed-in
tariff is 0.269 €/kWh for 25 years (the previous RD 436/2004 had a fix at 0.215 €/kWh). In November 2009 an annual cap of 500 MW for new installations was fixed for 2010 to 2013 . At the end of January 2011 CSP plants with a cumulative capacity of about 730 MW were in commercial operation in Spain with about 58% of the worldwide capacity of 1.26 GW. Additional 898 MW are currently under construction and another 842 MW have already registered for the feed-in tariff bringing the total capacity to about 2.5 GW by 2013. This capacity is equal to 60 plants which are eligible for the feed-in tariff.
In total projects with a total capacity of 15 GW have applied for interconnection. This is in line with the European Solar Industry Initiative, which aims for a cumulative installed CSP capacity of 30 GW
in Europe, out of which 19 GW would be in Spain . More than 100 projects are currently in the planning phase; mainly in Spain, North Africa and the USA.
The current average investment costs for the solar part are given in various projects at around € 4/W. Depending on whether the plant has a backup in the form of a fossil fired gas turbine and/or a
thermal storage the project costs can increase up to € 14/W. Table 1 to 4 show the CSP plants in operation and those under construction which are scheduled to become operational between now and 2013. If the announced schedules are kept, the current installed capacity of about 1.5 GW should more than triple to 4.7 GW in 2013.
Table 1: List of plants in commercial operation [3, 4, 5]
In December 2009 the World Bank’s Clean Technology Fund (CTF) Trust Fund Committee endorsed a CTD resource envelope for projects and programmes in five countries in the Middle East and North Africa to implement CSP . The budget envelope proposes CTF co-financing of $ 750 million (€ 600 million14), which should mobilize an additional $ 4.85 billion (€ 3.88 billion) from other sources and help to install more than 1.1 GW of CSP by 2020.
As a follow up to this initiative, the World Bank commissioned and published a report in early 2011 about the Local Manufacturing Potential in the MENA region . The report concludes: MENA could
become home to a new industry with great potential in a region with considerable solar energy resources. If the CSP market increases rapidly in the next few years, the region could benefit from significant job and wealth creation, as well as from enough power supply to satisfy the growing demand, while the world‘s renewable energy sector would benefit from increased competition and lower costs in CSP equipment manufacturing.
Within just a few years, the CSP industry has grown from negligible activity to over 4 GWe either commissioned or under construction. More than ten different companies are now active in building or
preparing for commercial-scale plants, compared to perhaps only two or three that were in a position to develop and build a commercial-scale plant a few years ago. These companies range from large
organizations with international construction and project management expertise who have acquired rights to specific technologies, to start-ups based on their own technology developed in house. In
addition, major renewable energy independent power producers such as Acciona, and utilities such as Iberdrola and Florida Power & Light (FLP) are making plays through various mechanisms for a role in the market.
The supply chain is not limited by raw materials, because the majority of required materials are glass, steel/aluminum, and concrete. At present, evacuated tubes for trough plants can be produced at a
sufficient rate to service several hundred MW/yr. However, expanded capacity can be introduced fairly readily through new factories with an 18-month lead time.
Source: Renewable Energy in EU Snapshot 2011
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