Concentrating solar power (CSP) plants use mirrors to concentrate the sun's energy to drive traditional steam turbines or engines that create electricity. The thermal energy concentrated in a CSP plant can be stored and used to produce electricity when it is needed, day or night.
Today, roughly 1,815MW of CSP plants are in operation in the United States. Global CSP capacity around the world rose by a considerable 11 percent last year, led primarily by Spain and Morocco.
A recent analysis of power generation costs from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) revealed that CSP fell more steeply in cost last year than any other renewable technology. It declined 26 percent year on year, double the rate seen in onshore wind and PV, and has dropped 46 percent since 2010.
The sudden and extreme drop in cost of CSP has led to a veritable renaissance for the previously obscure technology, allowing it to become competitive with more traditional photovoltaic solar technologies.
CSP deployment is set to rise in China this year, making a rebound in average global costs unlikely. Instead, IRENA predicts average CSP costs will continue to descend through to 2020, hitting between $60 and $100 per megawatt-hour, or roughly the same level as offshore wind.