Concentrated Solar Thermal Power and Photovoltaic: Reaching a balance in the solar space

So far, both technologies have been looked upon as natural rivals, however, last week this notion was re-visited in the webinar Concentrating Solar Power and Photovoltaic: Balancing Competition and Opportunity hosted by CSP Today. The idea of a collaboration that could re-shape the solar sector as a whole was discussed by three key industry figures. Luis Crespo, of Protermosolar and ESTELA, Pablo Giménez of Fotowatio Renewable Ventures and Ruud Dekkers of Solar Millennium.

The hour-long session, which included Q&A’s and live polls with over 500 participants, delivered important insights on how concentrated solar energy and photovoltaic could collaborate to further solar energy within the renewable power mix and ultimately "decarbonize" the electricity generation.

The general consensus pointed at complementation between technologies, since the gaps left by PV’s disadvantages can be bridged by CSP’s advantages and vice versa. In addition, a market share overlap could occur in installations ranging from 20 to 100 MW. However, it was widely acknowledged that in the future, rather than straight forward competition, the investor’s choice will be a matter of evaluating the best fitting for a given geography, size and application.

One area discussed in which Concentrating Solar Power and PV can fully collaborate is lobbying, especially since other renewables have very strong lobbying groups around the world. Participants and speakers also analysed other potential areas for future collaboration including joint project development to spread costs more efficiently and training of human resources for the faster deployment of solar. Each speaker also highlighted the increase of investors’ confidence, since a main problem for the solar community when opening a new market is to provide data about the availability and reliability of the solar resource. In such case, both technologies could work together to set up tools for solar recourse assessment.

Geographically, it is expected for one or the other to take the lead; however, 42% of participants expressed the belief that co-existence is possible everywhere. Speakers clarified that in mature markets the share will depend on the specific support whereas in emerging markets it will be determined by the contingence volumes for each technology. It was also mentioned that in mature markets, PV might focus on the residential market whereas solar thermal would be linked to the hybridization with gas fire plants and in emerging markets, both could co-exist for utility scale.