Thursday, February 2, 2012

Solar Econ 101 - Solar PV Versus Concentrated Solar Power

Solar panel prices have dropped 75% since 2008. How has this affected the market for investment in Concentrated Solar Power (CSP)?

This article in April 2011 "Sun and Wind" magazine says "Due to financing problems, several planned and approved large CSP projects have switched to PV." The article goes on to state "It is now really hard for developers to get financing for such large projects: investors see CSP plants as expensive and risky operations. In a time when capital is hard to come by, smaller and more proven PV installations are more popular."

According to Jeffrey Atkin, partner at Foley and Lardner LLP in Los Angeles "After the DOE loan projects end, it will be difficult for any big plants to find financing."

Contrast that to what it's like working in the PV industry, where finance has been finding us, and several financiers with hundreds of millions of dollars each have offered to fund our community solar gardens.

The article does mention the energy storage benefit of CSP. But see the latest from Energy Secretary Steve Chu - battery costs are expected to fall 70% from 2008 levels by 2015 and 87.5% by 2020.

Also, check out this video from Amory Lovins - his rebuttal at the end brings up a point about central station power of whatever kind, including CSP. When you think about it, distributed renewables are fundamentally more robust. What happens if that coal or nuclear plant, or CSP tower, goes unpredictably off line? In other words, what is going to backup the backup power?

Amory Lovins compares it to needing a backup elephant to haul away a dead elephant. And backup elephants are expensive!

Why am I bothering people with all of this now? Because today I am going to a hearing to comment on one of these 656-foot tall CSP plants in the middle of the San Luis Valley, where it would stand looking at me eyeball to unblinking, glowing eyeball.

Whether you are for or against the towers, you can sign up to subscribe to a solar garden at

Super thanks!


Joy Hughes, Founder, Solar Gardens Institute
CEO, Solar Panel Hosting LLC
(719)207-3097 direct

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