Industry seeks uniformity and certainty in policies pertaining to CSP and CPV

CSP and CPV Investment & Finance Summit Special
"One thing investors want above all from their policy-makers is policy certainty".
This statement recently came from Amadeus Capital Partners Limited's Patrick Burtis during an interview, conducted in the context of CSP and CPV Investment & Finance Summit, scheduled to take place on 8-9 October in Madrid.

In another interview, with reference to the Spanish solar market, which has witnessed developments related to feed-in tariffs and the last year's Royal Decree RD 661/2007, Peter Sweatman, Managing Director, Climate Change Capital (Iberia Office) categorically said that solar power is here to stay. "We will see greater use of industrial roof space, integrated technologies, thin film and the like, and I believe that the regulatory environment will be supportive."

"The CSP industry is already at a state of maturity where an investor can employ hundreds of millions of dollars in projects, and CSP can attract lower-risk capital. In my mind, the very large VC investments we've seen in concentrating thermal recently blur the line between VC investing and project or capital finance. CPV, meanwhile, is still cutting its teeth, and the fundamental approach has yet to be proven on a large scale. However the potential upside for CPV is still hugely compelling. CPV is still an approach well suited to VC investors," says Burtis.

Even as the investors get increasingly engaged in emerging technologies like CSP and CPV, be it investors or any other stakeholder, it is widely acknowledged that the growth of both would depend upon how the tax incentives and feed-in tariff would evolve.

According to European Solar Thermal Electricity Association's (ESTELA) president José Alfonso Nebrera, solar thermal power from plants in Southern Europe can contribute with up to 30 GW by 2020. The Association supports the extension of feed-in tariffs or other incentives for solar electricity imports and the creation of a framework for private investment, as well as the development of the necessary power generation and transmission infrastructure.

Europe, particularly Germany and Spain, is the world leader in this technology as demonstrated not only by the number of plants under construction in Spain but also by the ownership and construction of new plants in the US and the international tendering of plants in other markets, which are being awarded to the companies from Europe.

Assessing the progress made by CSP and CPV technologies in European market over the past few years especially in the wake of feed-in tariffs being implemented, Artur Dela, chairman, EnergyMixx AG and CEO, EnergyMixx Europe SA, said, "Clearly, the feed-in tariff system pioneered by Germany and now adopted (in various forms) by many other countries is an efficient and effective way of bringing forward new technologies from inception to volume, which deserve to have a place in the energy markets worldwide. Until now, most of this incentive has been applied to flat plate PV."

"However, we can foresee the installed cost of solar PV reducing rapidly with the take-up of solar concentrating technologies such as ours. The driver for such reductions coming from the efficiency of solar concentration and the drastically reduced need for expensive silicon in the compact solar receivers as compared to conventional flat plate PV," he said.

According to Dela, in addition solar concentration has the potential to provide energy in different forms: As electricity (PV); As heat only (thermal) for use say as feed to an absorption chiller for large scale air conditioning or as superheated steam to drive a turbine. "We are developing superior heat storage solutions. By combining our CSP with CCGT, using the gas turbine exhaust heat primarily for superheating, we are able to significantly increase gas-to power efficiency to around 90-100 percent, a step change from the current 60 percent," he said; As combined heat and power (CHP).

"This makes the technology very versatile as compared to say wind or hydro where the energy can only be extracted as electricity. We also view solar concentration as being much more predicable in terms of annual energy yield than wind or hydro (and to some extent biomass) and whilst it is still an intermittent source (the sun does not always shine) in certain geographic regions, it is highly predictable. EnergyMixx considers that in future we will see renewable (alternative) energy generation projects involving a combination of sources; wind, hydro, biomass and solar complementing each other and essentially balancing the risk," said Dela.

According to Dela, a start has been made, with CSP in the lead in locations like southern Spain.

"However, given the scale of the task ahead, to supply hundreds of GW of capacity into the European grid system, which we project will become more integrated over time, we see solar CSP and CPV being able to supply the majority of this additional capacity with EnergyMixx taking a leading role," he added.

Specifically from CSP's perspective, in the past it has been projected that the combined average growth rate of CSP capacity over the last five years has been at around 250 percent and 16,000MW could be installed by 2015.

According to Plataforma Solar's Dr. Eduardo Zarza, the number of solar power plants installed by 2015 will depend on how the tax incentives and feed-in tariff evolve.

"I think that feed-in tariff in Spain will be reduced in 2011 and the construction of CSP plants will not grow afterwards in the same way (as it is now). In any case, we should not get tough minded with projected figures; if we all do our best to reduce costs and increase efficiency, the market will do the rest," said Dr. Zarza.

Specifically, in terms of progress made by various CSP technologies in the context of their commercialisation, Dr. Zarza said, "The technical feasibility of these three technologies - Parabolic Troughs, Dish-Stirling and Solar Towers - has been proven. However, the commercial viability is still to be demonstrated for Dish-Stirling and solar power systems. Improvements have been developed during the last decade for these two technologies, but experimental results from commercial plants are still missing concerning Dish-Stirlings and Solar Towers."

"I think this is the reason why most of the promoters have chosen parabolic troughs for their plants. The feed-in tariff and tax incentives implemented in some countries has pushed the commercial development of the various CSP technologies and a huge amount of resources are now being devoted by both public and private entities, thus making significant improvements foreseeable in the mid-term," he said.

CSP and CPV Investment & Finance Summit will be on 8-9 October in Madrid.

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