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Executive Summary – Overview of the market
The solar thermal market has been hit hard by the economic downturn and the subsequent decline in demand from the construction sector. Several companies have filed for bankruptcy, including the market pioneer, Rayosol. For yet another year, Chinese manufacturers’ experienced steady growth and sales of Chinese manufactured vacuum coolers are starting to overtake sales of flat plate collec-tors.
The reduced government support for solar thermal in Australia is expected to result in reduced sales in 2010. Other governments are expected to reduce subsidies as part of austerity measures.
Despite this, 2009 was the year for CSP, with the MENA region making significant plans to invest in the space and the UAE now building a 100 MW plant. Overall plants are getting bigger and utilities are starting to take an interest, as prices are dropping. Once the domain of parabolic trough technology, solar towers are starting to make inroads into the sector, with the US investing heavily into R&D on towers. Towers have a lower water footprint than trough systems, making it ideal for water-stressed regions, and a significantly higher efficiency and storage capacity than the other three CSP technologies. eSolar, a tower manufacturer, announced major supply contracts in China and India.
As well as solar towers, solar thermal storage is a major area of CSP research, with more and more planned projects in the US having storage capacity. Molten salt is likely to remain the dominant technology due to its low cost.
ABS Intelligence: Market Highlights
Big players are starting to enter the CSP sector with Areva’s acquisition of Ausra, a parabolic trough manufacturer, and Siemen’s acquisition of Solel Solar Systems and Archimede. Perhaps this is partially due to increased interest in the Desertec plan to connect the grid systems of North Africa and Southern Europe, and invest in renewable energy projects in the region. As part of the plan CSP plants in North Africa would supply cheap electricity to Southern Europe, due to their lower capital costs. Major Banks and manufacturing companies became members of Desertec this and last year, including Siemens and Deutsche Bank.
One major use of CSP that has garnered interest is its coupling to desalination plants. Several such plants are in the planning stages in the water-stressed MENA region, along with ISSC plants, which are still popular.
For 2010, major markets for CSP will continue to be the USA and Spain, along with MENA countries, India, China and perhaps, Australia