WHOLESALING SOLAR POWER PLANTS
Size matters: The multi-project approach to installing CSP capacity; BrightSource Energy and the Solar Trust of America have made strong progress on securing funding and breaking ground. Is the multi tower/multi plant approach a blueprint for success?
Alison Ebbage, 26 April 2011 (CSP Today)
"With BrightSource Energy filing for a US$250mn IPO and the Solar Trust of America triumphantly clutching a US$2.1 billion DoE (Department of Energy) conditional loan guarantee [for two units and 484 megawatts of the planned 1000 MW Blythe project], the prognosis for mega CSP projects is looking good…
"…[This] is welcome news for the CSP industry and in particular for the multi-plant approach…[T]he Blythe project will generate more solar power than all other solar-concentrating projects in the world combined…[E]very MW of solar can power around 200 houses, and although some 508MW of power is already being produced and 399MW is actively under construction, a whopping 9,146MW ( including the Blythe project) is in development stages…"
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"…[L]arge-scale plants [offer lower costs for the mass production of components as well as for construction, planning and design and] have the ability to provide more thermal storage, thus meeting peak demand in the evening. This is a major attraction for the utilities companies who will buy the power…
"…The multi-plant approach can also [level the playing field when it comes to technology choice and efficiency by taking] advantage of the various technologies on offer. The Blythe project will use parabolic trough technology…The [BrightSource] Ivanpah multi-plant project currently under construction using a DoE loan of $1.4bn, is using towers which, according to developer Brightsource, offer the highest operating efficiencies and the lowest capital costs possible due to commodity-based inputs, no concrete foundations, fewer pipes and cabling and less water usage…"
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"…[O]n the downside large-scale projects can be more difficult to finance…Private financers are nervy over the time taken to complete such big developments and there is also a question mark over the continued availability of the crucial DoE loan guarantee scheme…[The technology is proven but big projects] require more money [and land, which can cause permitting difficulties]…
"There has also been a broad plunge in prices for energy as competing alternative power sources gain ground, notably Photovoltaic (PV)…[which is simpler to get off the ground and into the] production stage, which drives prices down…Despite the promising progress made by both the Blythe and Ivanpah projects, two major CSP projects (Calico Solar and Imperial Valley) by Tessera were recently sold off…after finance could not be secured and a power purchase agreement (PPA) fell through. Their new developers are now likely to use PV…"