Concentrating Solar Thermal Power (CSP)


The concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) market continued to advance in 2013 after record growth in 2012. Total global capacity increased by nearly 0.9 GW, up 36%, to more than 3.4 GW.1 (See Figure 15 and Reference Table R8.) The United States and Spain continued their global market leadership.2 However, a global shift to areas of high direct normal irradiation (DNI) in developing-country markets is accelerating.3 Global installed capacity of CSP has increased nearly 10-fold since 2004; during the five-year period from the end of 2008 to the end of 2013, total global capacity grew at an average annual rate approaching 50%.4

Parabolic trough technologies represented all of the facilities added during the year, as well as the majority of plants under construction by mid-2013. Towers/central receivers continued to increase their market share, however, with significant capacity added in early 2014.5 Fresnel and parabolic dish technologies remain in an earlier developmental stage.

The United States became the leading market in 2013, adding 375 MW to end the year with almost 0.9 GW in operation, and just short of 1 GW under construction.6 The new Solana plant (250 MW) in Arizona is the world's largest parabolic trough plant and the first U.S. CSP plant with thermal energy storage (TES).7 U.S. capacity took another significant leap in early 2014, when the 377 MW Ivanpah plant started feeding electricity into the grid.8 Upon its completion, the Ivanpah plant, based on tower/central receiver technology, was the largest solar thermal electric facility of any type operating in the world.9

Spain sustained its global leadership in existing CSP capacity, adding 350 MW in 2013 to increase operating capacity by 18%, for a total of 2.3 GW at year's end.10 Parabolic trough remained the dominant technology in Spain, making up all of the capacity that came on line during the year. Due to policy changes in 2012 and early 2013 that placed a moratorium on new construction in the country, no new plants were under construction by the end of 2013.11 Thus, the United States is set to maintain its position as the leading CSP market in 2014.

In other markets, capacity nearly tripled during 2013, to just under 250 MW.12 Additions included the 100 MW Shams 1 plant in the United Arab Emirates and a 50 MW plant in Rajasthan, India (both parabolic trough plants), and the first phase (10 MW) of a 50 MW tower/central receiver plant in Delingha, China.13 Other countries with existing CSP that did not add capacity in 2013 include Algeria (25 MW), Egypt (20 MW), Morocco (20 MW), Australia (13 MW), and Thailand (5 MW).14 Several additional countries had small pilot plants in operation, including France, Germany, Israel, Italy, South Africa, South Korea, and Turkey.15

During 2013, CSP continued to expand to new markets in Asia, Latin America, and particularly across Africa and the Middle East.16 South Africa remained one of the most active markets, with 100 MW of parabolic trough and 100 MW of power tower capacity under construction at year's end.17 In neighbouring Namibia, preliminary evaluation of a 50 MW plant with TES was under way.18 Over USD 600 million was pledged in 2013 to support Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia in bringing more than 1 GW of CSP to the regional market.i 19 As of early 2014, construction was under way in Morocco (160 MW) and Egypt (100 MW).20

In the Middle East, Kuwait opened bidding procedures for a 50 MW CSP plant with thermal storage, expected to be operational in 2016.21 Saudi Arabia announced plans to spend USD 109 billion on more than 50 GW of renewable energy by 2032, 25 GW of which will come from CSP.22 In Israel, construction was scheduled to begin in 2014 on the first phase (121 MW) of a 250 MW CSP plant in the Negev Desert.23

Figure 15. Concentrating Solar Thermal Power Global Capacity, by Country or Region, 2004-2013

Source: See Endnote 1 for this section.

i - This was pledged by the Climate Investment Funds, which are supported by the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the World Bank Group.

Elsewhere around the world, Chile advanced towards its first commercial CSP capacity with the award of a 110 MW tower/ central receiver tender in 2013.24 In India, six of the plants being developed under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) were held back by technical, procurement and financing delays, as well as apparent errors in solar resource assessments.25 Italy's market—hindered by regulatory challenges in the past—received a boost after the feed-in tariff ntroduced in December 2012 attracted licence applications for over 200 MW of new CSP capacity.26

CSP technologies are being used to support an increasing number and range of hybrid electricity generation activities and processes, and are being applied to augment steam production at coal, gas, and geothermal power plants.27 The 44 MWth Kogan Creek Solar Boost project under construction in Australia is expected to start supplementing existing coal-based steam generation when operations commence in 2015.28

In some markets, CSP continues to face challenges related to strong competition from solar PV technologies and environmental concerns, with several plants in the United States being delayed, withdrawn, or converted to solar PV.29 While global growth of CSP is expected to fall short of past projections, interest in CSP plants using TES is growing in a number of markets, where it is seen as a valuable source of renewable dispatchable electric capacity.30 Emerging markets such as Saudi Arabia and Chile have made TES mandatory for future CSP developments.31


The industry continued expanding into new markets in 2013.32 Yet while global growth of the sector remained strong, revised projections, fed by increasing competition from declining solar PV costs, led a number of companies to close their CSP operations.33

The top companies in 2013 included Abengoa, Acciona, ACS Cobra, and Torresol Energy (all Spain); Brightsource and Solar Reserve (both United States); Schott Solar (Germany); and AREVA (France). German firm Siemens announced the closure of its CSP business after losses of USD 1 billion or more since 2011, while Schott Solar closed its 400 MW U.S. plant to focus on winning projects in the Middle East.34

As of early 2013, Abengoa Solar had the world's largest portfolio of plants in operation or under construction, and Spanish companies continued to lead the industry with ownership interest in almost three-quarters of CSP capacity deployed around the world.35 However, the dead stop in the Spanish market pushed Spanish CSP developers further afield in search of development opportunities.36

The limitations of synthetic oils and molten salts as heat transfer media have driven research into a range of alternatives, such as superheated steam; ternary salts; graphite storage; ceramic storage; and rocks, pebbles, and slag.37 The growing potential of TES systems was showcased when the system at Spain's Gemasolar plant enabled uninterrupted power generation for 36 consecutive days.38

A trend towards larger plants continued, as evidenced by the commencement of operations at the Ivanpah and Solana plants in the United States and by the scale of many of the plants under construction in the MENA region. Growing evidence emerged of the potential cost reductions of larger plants, relating to their ability to work at higher temperatures and achieve greater efficiencies.39

CSP costs also continue to be reduced through enhanced design and improved manufacturing and construction techniques. SHEC Energy (Canada) claimed significant reductions in materials cost through the adoption of new production technologies; the application of lightweight, high-strength materials and a proprietary structural stiffening technique; and automated, manufacturing processes to create light and strong structures.40

Research on hybrid CSP applications, and the augmentation of steam production attraditional power plants, continued in 2013. In the United States, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Idaho National Laboratory launched joint research on the augmentation of geothermal plants with CSP, while the U.S. Department of Energy pledged USD 10 million for integration of CSP at the 500 MW natural gas-fired Cosumnes Power Plant in Sacramento, California.41

1 Global CSP capacity and capacity additions, and Figure 15, derived from the following sources: REN21, Renewables 2013 Global Status Report (Paris: REN21 Secretariat, June 2013),; Luis Crespo, European Solar Thermal Electricity Association (ESTELA), personal communication with REN21, February 2014; Fred Morse, Morse Associates, Inc., personal communication with REN21, February-May 2014; 2014; "CSP World Map," CSP World,; "CSP Today Global Tracker," CSP Today,; U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), "Solar Energy Facts: 2013 Year in Review," 5 March 2014,;SEIA, "Major Solar Projects in the United States: Operating, Under Construction, or Under Development," 6 March 2014, Projects%20List%203.6.14.pdf; "NextEra dedicates 250 MW Genesis CSP Plant," SolarServer, 25 April 2014,; Abengoa Solar, "Mojave Solar Project," To the extent possible, the GSR uses net capacity CSP data. The net capacity is the peak generating capacity of the plant after subtracting internal power requirements from gross capacity (i.e., the peak generating capacity of its turbine unit).

2 Crespo, op. cit. note 1.

3 Heba Hashem, "Emerging CSP markets: More than meets the eye," CSP Today, 22 November 2013,

4 Global CSPgrowth rates derived from the following: REN21,op. cit. note 1; Crespo, op. cit. note 1; Morse, op. cit. note 1; "CSP World Map," op. cit. note 1; "CSP Today Global Tracker," op. cit. note 1.

5 Crespo, op. cit. note 1.

6 U.S. capacity added during 2013 includes the 250 MWSolana plant and the 125 MWfirst phase of the 250 MW Genesis plant, which was commissioned in late 2013. All capacities reported are net. Added capacities, from Fred Morse, Morse Associates, Inc., personal communication with REN21, April 2014; Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of the Interior, "Genesis Solar Power Project (CACA 48880)," 7 March 2012,; "NextEra dedicates 250 MW Genesis CSP plant," SolarServer,; U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NRED, "Concentrating Solar Power Projects: Solana Generating Station," 17 March 2014, m/projectID=23; capacity under construction from idem; James Montgomery, "Go-Time for Solar CSP: Ivanpah, Crescent Dunes Switch On," Renewable Energy World, 12 February 2014, http://www.renewableenergyworld. com/rea/news/article/2014/02/go-time-for-solar-csp-ivanpah-; "NextEra dedicates 250 MW Genesis CSP Plant," op. cit.note 1; Abengoa Solar, op. cit. note 1; HeliosCSP, "Ivanpah: World's Biggest Concentrated Solar Power Tower Project Goes On-Line," 19 February 2013, php?id_not=2332.

7 Abengoa Solar, "Solana, the largest parabolic trough plant in the world,"; "Abengoa's Solana Begins Commercial Operation and Marks Major CSP Milestone," Solar International, 10 October 2013,

8 HeliosCSP, op. cit. note 6.

9 Jason Kastrenakes, "This is what the world's largest solar plant looks like when it's catching rays," The Verge, 13 February 2013, http://www.theverge.eom/2014/2/13/5408686/ivanpah-solar-plant-begins-commercial-operation.

10 Crespo, op. cit. note 1.

11 EurObservER, Solar Thermal and Concentrated Solar Power Barometer (Paris: May 2013),

12 Crespo, op. cit. note 1.

13 United Arab Emirates from EurObservER, op. cit. note 11; India from Jenny Muirhead, "MENA Shows Patience Towards Delay in CSP Projects," Weekly Intelligence Brief: July 15-July 22, CSP Today, 22 July 2013,; China from Crespo, op. cit. note 1.

14 Crespo, op. cit. note 1.

15 "CSP World Map," op. cit. note 1; "CSP Today Global Tracker," op. cit. note 1.

16 Hashem, op. cit. note 3.

17 Crespo, op. cit. note 1.

18 Rochelle Gayle, "Namibia evaluating concentrated solar power potential in feasibility study," CSP Today, 3 February 2014,

19 "More than 1GW of CSP Headed for MENA," Renewable Energy World, 5 July 2013, rticle/2013/07/more-than-1-gw-of-csp-headed-for-mena.

20 Morocco from Crespo, op. cit. note 1; Egypt from "Kom Ombo CSP Project," CSP World,

21 Jenny Muirhead, "CSP makes a grand entry into Kuwait," CSP Today, 1 July 2013,

22 Bill Scanlon, "Saudi Arabia Looks to NREL for Solar Monitoring Expertise," Renewable Energy World, 22 April 2013,

23 SustainableBusiness, "Israel Gets Its First Big Solar Project: 5th Largest in the World," 31 October 2013,; "Ashalim CSP plant 2," CSP World,, viewed 24 April 2014.

24 Crespo, op. cit. note 1.

25 CleanBiz Asia, "India's plans forworld's largest CSP need honest soul-searching," 22 August 2013,; CleanBiz Asia, "India continues solar thermal push despite lackluster success," 29 May 2013,

26 Regulatory hindrances in Italy from HeliosCSP, "Go-ahead needed for Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) in Italy for the domestic industry to be competitive on foreign markets," 3 April 2014,; introduction of feed-in tariff from EurObservER, op. cit. note 11.

27 Coal hybrid application from NREL, "First Hybrid CSP-Coal Power Plant Is Fired Up in Colorado," 23 July 2010,; geothermal hybrid application from Jenny Muirhead, "CSP-Geothermal Hybrid Plant Projects Spring to Life," CSP Today, 22 July 2013,; natural gas hybrid application from "New hybrid CSP-natural gas plant announced in Sacramento, US," CSP World, 31 October 2013,

28 CS Energy, "Kogan Creek Solar Boost Project. The largest project of its kind in the world,"

29 Examples include a CSP project that was rejected in California, from John Parnel, "California rejects another Brightsource CSP project," PV Tech, 17 December 2013,, and another project in California that was abandoned, from James Montgomery, "K Road Gives Up on Calico Solar Project," Renewable Energy World, 1 July 2013,

30 Global growth expectations from Jason Deign, "Consolidation's effect on CSP's supply chain," CSP Today, 2 August 2013,; interest in TES from Jason Deign, "Tracking new directions in CSP thermal energy storage," CSP Today, 26 July 2013,

31 Deign, "Tracking new directions in CSP thermal energy storage," op. cit. note 30.

32 Crespo, op. cit. note 1.

33 Deign, "Consolidation's effect on CSP's supply chain," op. cit. note 30.

34 Siemens from Beatriz Gonzalez, "Siemens to Shut its CSP Business," Weekly Intelligence Brief: June 17-24, CSP Today, 24 June 2013,; Schott Solar from Tildy Bayar, "European CSP, Solar Water Heating Face Difficulties," Renewable Energy World, 11 June 2013,

35 Abengoa portfolio from EurObservER, op. cit. note 11; leadership of Spanish companies from HeliosCSP, "Current Status of CSP in the World," 21 June 2013, php?id_not=1853.

36 Bayar, op. cit. note 34.

37 Range of alternatives, and graphite, ceramic, rock pebble, and slag storage from Deign, "Tracking new directions in CSP thermal energy storage," op. cit. note 30; superheated steam, as at the PS-10 and PS-20 plants in Spain, and the Khi Solar One facility currently under construction in South Africa, from Jason Deign, "Baring the secrets of Khi Solar One," CSP Today, 13 September 2013,; ternary salts from Crespo, op. cit. note 1.

38 "The Andalusian solar plant Gemasolar as the stage of Gran Turismo 6 PlayStation video game," Energy News, 17 December 2013,

39 HeliosCSP, op. cit. note 6; Jenny Muirhead, Weekly Intelligence Brief. October 7-14, CSP Today, 14 October 2014,; EurObservER, op. cit. note 11; Alison Ebbage, "Large-scale plants: the future for CSP?" CSP Today, 31 January 2014,; growing evidence of potential cost reductions derived from an analysis conducted by CSP Today, which showed that the EUR/Watt capital expenditure of a 50 MW plant is around 25% higher than that of a 200 MW plant, as a result of economies of scale in the development of the plant. Similarwork by the Internationa Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) determined that the specific cost of parabolic trough plant with thermal storage decreases by approximately 12% if the plant size is increased from 50 MW to 100 MW, and by 20% if size is increased from 50 MW to 200 MW; see Groupe Reaction, "Making cents of CSP economies of scale," CSP Today, 22 July 2013,

40 Other cost-reduction interventions under investigation include standardisation of central receivers on powertowers; increased aperture size on linear Fresnel plants; use of supercritical turbines; and application of new tracking mechanisms for heliostats using hydraulics, from Crespo, op. cit. note 1. Researchers in Spain are developing engineering tools to enable the thermo-economic design and optimisation of CSP plants, and the reduction of TES costs; see Jenny Muirhead, "New initiatives to reduce the cost of CSP," CSP Today, 11 October 2013,

41 Research on geothermal augmentation from Dan Wendt, "Hybrid Geothermal-Solar" (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), 22 April 2013),; integration of CSP and natural gas from DOE, "Sacramento Utility to Launch Concentrating Solar Power-Natural Gas Project," press release (Washington, DC: 31 October 2013),