SE Asia's first solar thermal DSG plant online

The world's first solar thermal, direct steam generation parabolic trough plant, built with Solarlite’s  technology,  was opened last week in Huaykrachao, in the Thai province of Kanchanaburi.

The 5MWe Huaykrachao, Kanjanaburi plant is the first of 15 solar power plants planned by Thai Solar Energy (TSE), with a combined total output of 135 MW that are slated for construction under Thailand’s regulations for very small power producers (VSPP). The regulations guarantee additional feed-in tariffs for projects with up to 10 MW in their first 10 years of operation.

TSE confirmed its long-term partnership with German solar thermal technology provider, Solarlite. Solarlite is the only company in the world that includes uses direct steam technology in the plant designs it offers in the commercial market.


CEC gives nod for Renewable Energy Report

A report approved by the California Energy Commission (CEC) has indicated that a total of 1,267 renewable energy facilities with a total capacity of 56.6 GW were green-lighted for RPS eligibility certification and pre-certification over the past fiscal year.

Mandated by the Legislature, The Renewable Energy Programme (REP) 2011 Annual Report shared the results and accomplishments of the programme and highlights the status of funding from July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011.

Investor-owned utilities (IOU) signed contracts for up to 18,417 MW of capacity from new, repowered or restarted renewable facilities, with 22 percent of these projects currently online. During the past fiscal year, the report showed the Emerging Renewables programme funded 140 rebate applications for completed projects in IOU service areas.

The report also mentions that 28,763 emerging renewables systems have been installed, representing 127 MW of distributed renewable electricity capacity.

According to the report, the Existing Renewable Facilities Programme supported 4,277 GWh of renewable generation and received and approved funding applications for 25 solid-fuel biomass and eight solar thermal facilities.

Recently, California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that requires one third of the state's electric power come from renewable sources. The legislation increases the current 20% RPS target in 2010 to 33 percent renewable portfolio by December 31, 2020.


Brightsource adds storage to PPAs

Solar thermal technology company BrightSource Energy has added its SolarPLUS thermal energy storage capability to three of its power purchase agreements with Southern California Edison (SCE).

Under the original power purchase agreements with SCE, BrightSource would provide approximately four million MWh of electricity annually across seven power plants. Due to higher efficiencies and capacity factors associated with energy storage, the new set of agreements will provide approximately the same amount of energy annually but with one less plant.

According to BrightSource, the new set of contracts, if approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, now consist of two BrightSource solar thermal plants scheduled to deliver electricity in 2015 and three BrightSource plants with energy storage scheduled to deliver electricity in 2016 and 2017.  

The company said its decision to add storage to its solar thermal power plants would reduce the total cost of energy by increasing plant capacity factor - how much power a plant produces over a year – extending the production of electricity into later parts of the day when it is most needed by utilities.

BrightSource also referred to several capabilities including avoiding the variability and integration costs that other renewable resources like photovoltaics and wind create for utilities and grid operators; reducing the need for additional fossil fuel units required to back up intermittent renewables that put a hidden financial burden on ratepayers.


EEA: "CSP to increase 11-fold in Europe"

Newer renewable technologies such as concentrated solar power and wave/tidal power will increase more than 11-fold between 2010 and 2020 in Europe, according to a report form the European Environment Agency (EEA).

The projections are based on European countries’ plans to install renewable energy sources, which have been analysed by EEA. The latest update, titled Renewable Energy Projections as published in the National Renewable Energy Action Plans of the European Member States, shows the diversity of approaches to meeting the EU’s collective target of 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020. According to the latest figures, 11.7 % of energy used in the EU came from renewable sources in 2009.

The agency mentioned that European Union member states have individual targets, and must submit National Renewable Energy Action Plans (NREAPs) to the European Commission outlining how they expect to meet their 2020 renewable target, including the technology mix they intend to use and the trajectory they will follow. 

Approximately 43% of all renewable energy production is planned for heating and cooling, with biomass accounting for 80% renewable heating and cooling output.

Growth projections between 2010 and 2020 include:

  • Offshore wind projected to experience rapid growth, with installed capacity to multiply 17 times over the next decade.
  • Onshore wind and biomass electricity installed capacity to double, with solar photovoltaic capacity to triple over the same period.
  • A greater part of Europe’s electricity will come from the sea, as wave and tidal energy are projected to increase 11-fold.
  • The electricity-generating capacity of concentrated solar power will increase 11-fold.
  • Heat pump output will triple while geothermal heat and solar thermal output will approximately quadruple.

This report has been financed by the European Environment Agency (EEA) and was written by the Energy research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN).

In this version of the document, all 27 European Union Member States have been covered, and for 20 countries supplementary information provided by the Member States has been integrated.


CSP to grow at 17%, says bank

CSP capacity is projected to grow at a rate of around 17% on average over the next 10 years, according to Bank Sarasin, which recently released its study, Solar industry: Survival of the fittest in a fiercely competitive marketplace.

Bank Sarasin predicts cumulative capacity of 28 GW by 2020.

It highlighted that CSP installations are still expensive compared with PV systems. It is difficult to cut the costs of CSP plants because of the high material and labour costs required in their construction. The most important niche for CSP technology continues to be in hybrid power stations. Their use in combination with gas-fired or coal-fired power stations seems to be very lucrative, especially in the Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America, and saves on fossil fuel costs. 

A few months ago, REN21’s Renewables 2011 Global Status Report indicated that renewable energy accounted for approximately half of the estimated 194 GW of new electric capacity added globally during 2010. And for the CSP sector, the report indicated that after years of inactivity, the CSP market has come back to life with nearly 740 MW added between 2007 and the end of 2010.

More than half of this capacity was installed during 2010. Parabolic trough plants continued to dominate the market. However, dramatic reductions in PV costs are challenging the growing market for CSP, at least in the United States, where several planned projects were redesigned to use utility-scale PV technologies.

At the same time, project development is moving beyond the U.S. southwest and Spain to other regions and countries, particularly the MENA region. Globally, nearly 2.6 GW of additional CSP capacity was under construction by year’s end, with all plants expected to be operational by 2014.