U.S. Energy Information Agency Spotlights CSP Surge

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that the country's solar thermal generating capacity has doubled this year, thanks to large, new concentrating solar power (CSP) plants entering commercial operation. The EIA projections for total solar thermal capacity additions by the end of 2014 include six projects, for a total of capacity of approximately 1.26 GW, with more expected in 2015 and 2016.

The government agency called particular attention to the 250 MW Solana parabolic trough plant in Gila Bend, Ariz., which came online in October; and the 391 MW Ivanpah power tower plant in California's Mojave Desert, which began grid tests in September, as representative of the two dominant forms of CSP technology. In addition, the EIA notes the significance of Solana's integrated thermal storage capability.

The CSP facilities represent only 4% of total expected U.S. capacity additions through 2014. Moreover, the EIA notes, new utility-scale photovoltaic capacity significantly outpaces CSP.

The five largest solar thermal projects scheduled to come online this year and next were beneficiaries of the U.S. Department of Energy's loan guarantee program. The EIA says federal loan guarantees covered $1.45 billion of the approximately $2 billion cost of Abengoa's Solana project, while BrightSource Energy received a $1.6 billion guarantee on the approximately $2.2 billion cost of its Ivanpah project.

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