Solar Trust Ditches CSP for PV at Massive Blythe Plant, Cites Market Conditions

Solar Trust of America will convert the first 500-MW phase of its massive concentrating solar power (CSP) project under construction near Blythe, in Riverside County, Calif., to photovoltaic (PV) technology because market conditions currently favor PV, the company announced on Thursday.

Solar Trust’s Germany-based parent company Solar Millennium on Thursday also said that it would increase the project size from 484-MW to 1,000 MW, and that it was in discussions with PV panel manufacturers and EPC contractors regarding the project. In a statement, it added that while it strongly believed solar thermal technology would fuel its market growth, it was responding to “favorable conditions in the PV and commercial lending markets in the United States.”

"Solar Millennium responds quickly and pragmatically to market conditions, and at the moment the California market favors PV technology," said Christoph Wolff, CEO of Solar Millennium. "We are taking decisive steps in the US to maximize site value for our company and our shareholders."

Wolff said that utilities elsewhere in the world recognized the obvious and highly valued benefits of CSP as a “grid-stabilizing renewable energy source with storage capabilities,” qualities that would “soon become systematically acknowledged in the US, as well." One example was the use of hybrid PV/CSP plants, he said.

The Blythe project earlier this year received a $2.1 billion conditional loan guarantee commitment from the Department of Energy to support the first two 242-MW parabolic trough units. The DOE had at that time said the $2.8 billion project would be the first CSP parabolic trough plant to use an air-cooled condenser unit—which would decrease water use by nearly 90% compared with a water-cooled CSP facility. It is unclear how the company’s decision will affect the loan guarantee.

This February, Tessera Solar similarly sold its Imperial Project, a 709-MW CSP plant designed to boost Stirling Engine technology, to AES Solar. In May, that project was switched over to PV.

Sources: POWERnews, Solar Trust, DOE