The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.
Untitled Document

Creating Investor Certainty in Large-Scale Solar

Helped by government loan guarantees and growing investor confidence in the technologies, large-scale solar PV and CSP developers have made some headway in recent weeks. But there are plenty of headwinds too.

The U.S. Department of Energy announced three major loan guarantees totaling $4.5 billion for large projects in the Southwest, including Solar Millenium's 1-GW parabolic trough project in California; BrightSource Energy's 392-MW power tower project, also in California; and SunPower and NRG's 250-MW solar PV plant in Arizona.

In addition to these funding announcements, BrightSource filed for a $250 million IPO last Friday – just a month after securing hundreds of millions of dollars from Google, Alstom and NRG Energy. (For a story on the IPO, read yesterday's REW piece from Ucilia Wang.)

Outside of the U.S., Areva Solar was awarded a contract to develop a 44-MW compact linear fresnel (CLFR) CSP plant at a 750-MW coal plant in Southern Australia. That project will be the world's largest “solar booster” plant using superheated steam to supplement an existing power block at a coal facility.

While developers of large-scale CSP and PV projects still have major issues with siting and financing, there are clearly more technologies of interest in the market.

“Investors are getting more comfortable with these projects because we have more in operation, more data and more experience,” says Jayesh Goyal, Areva Solar's VP of sales.

The strength of the companies backing projects is a major factor. Areva, known primarily for building nuclear power plants, acquired the financially-struggling CLFR developer Ausra in February of 2010, thus forming Areva Solar. The company gives a strong performance guarantee, which Areva's Goyal says makes the company “extremely competitive” with more established technologies like parabolic troughs and solar PV. (Also, by siting this direct-steam technology with existing coal power plants, Goyal says they can bring costs down to $1.5 to $2 a watt, which is lower than PV.)

Other industrial heavyweights like Siemens, Alstom and NRG are acquiring or partnering with CSP developers, providing additional assurances to financial institutions willing to risk backing such large, first-of-a-kind projects.

And there are still a lot of risks.

According to various reports, BrightSource has been ordered by the Bureau of Land Management to halt construction activities on sections of its Ivanpah project due to displacement of Desert Tortoises, a threatened species. Ivanpah had already been delayed due to lawsuits over the project's impact, forcing BrightSource to redesign the facility last year.

Also, in many cases, the steep drop in PV prices and the rapid nature of PV development has made that technology more appealing. Last summer, NRG Energy decided to abandon CSP technologies in favor of PV at two sites in New Mexico. And in the last five months, Tessera Solar, a company focused on CSP plants using a sterling dish engine technology, sold development rights for the 709-MW Imperial Valley solar project and 850-MW Calico project to developers that will use mostly PV, rather than CSP.

At a recent roundtable on solar financing at the PV America conference, leading investment bankers agreed that most of the growth in the near-term will be on the PV side. Although there's far more capital available to project developers today than there was a couple years ago, the risk profile of PV is often more attractive to investors.

“In the PV world, there's lots of financing available because most of [the technology] is generally established,” said JP Morgan's Manager of Energy Investments John Eber. “A lot of CSP technologies are new...and that's why they've been struggling to get financing.” (JP Morgan was an investor in the 64-MW Nevada Solar One plant, a parabolic trough project completed in 2007.)

The problem with PV, however, is that there's a much lower barrier to entry. In many cases, the developer isn't mature enough to attract the attention of a large investment bank, which can also limit the number of financeable projects.

“The money is available. The question is, do you have good projects?” asked Barry Neal, head of environmental finance for Wells Fargo during the PV America roundtable.

The entrance of established project developers like NRG, Seimens, Alstom and Areva into the CSP sector has brought more credibility to emerging technologies. But this first phase of commercial development – which includes the projects now backed by the DOE – will determine how quickly investors move from PV into CSP.

In BrightSource's recent S-1 filing, a statement about the possible risks associated with the Ivanpah project illustrates this point exactly:

“Our future success depends on our ability to construct Ivanpah, our first utility-scale solar thermal power project, in a cost-effective and timely manner,” wrote the company. “If the construction and operation of Ivanpah are not successful, we may be unable to grow our business to a sufficient scale necessary to improve our results of operations and achieve profitability.”

For a detailed conversation about how investors are approaching the PV and CSP sectors, listen to this week's Inside Renewable Energy podcast linked above.

Untitled Document


Why Do Germany’s Electricity Prices Keep Falling?

Rachel Morison, Bloomberg Chancellor Angela Merkel cemented Germany’s shift toward an economy powered by renewable energy in 2010 with her “Ene...
Top 10 Clean Energy Trends Driving the Global Clean Energy Revolution

Top 10 Clean Energy Trends Driving the Global Clean Energy Revolution

Major Renewable Energy Developer EDF Expands into Community Wind, Acquires OwnEnergy

Renewable Energy World Editors Sunedison acquired First Wind in November 2014 and today EDF is announcing that it has snapped up OwnEnergy, a nation...

100 Percent Renewable Energy Charged EV Stations Allow Driving on Sunshine

Junko Movellan, Correspondent According to the Global EV Outlook 2015 published by the Clean Energy Ministerial’s Electric Vehicles Initiative (EVI...


Intersolar AWARD „Solar Projects in India“ – Applications being accepted until September 18

The Intersolar AWARD in the category Solar Projects in India honors projects in the fie...

New local energy partnership brings innovative solar tracker to Washington State

A new partnership will bring the innovative AllEarth Solar Tracker solar electric syste...

Solar Frontier's CIS Modules Are Selected For 26 MW Project In North Carolina

Solar Frontier supplies its advanced solar module technology, CIS, for a 26 MW project ...

20 days to GRC Annual Meeting & GEA Geothermal Energy Expo

The Geothermal Resources Council (GRC) has announced that it is only 20 days to go to t...


Cronimet / THEnergy study: In solar for mines size does not always matter - Reducing CAPEX with energy efficiency and load shifting

Munich, September 2015. Mining companies are constantly gaining interest in solar solutions because frequently solar ...

Shedding Some Light on a Taxing Situation for Community-Shared Solar

For renters and for property owners with inadequate roof space, the many benefits of solar electricity may seem out o...

NATiVE Recognized for Excellence at 2015 Greater Austin Business Awards

NATiVE Recognized for Excellence at 2015 Greater Austin Business Awards NEWS RELEASE AUSTIN, Texas – Aug. 27...

Solar Energy Means Jobs, Savings, and a Low-Cost Future [infographic]

There are a lot of utility-sponsored legislative and regulatory attacks on solar energy lately, and we put together t...


I am a reporter with, a blog published by the Center for American Progress. I am former editor and producer for, where I contributed stories and hosted the Inside Renewable Energy Podcast. Keep in to...


Volume 18, Issue 4


To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:


Tweet the Editors! @jennrunyon



Solar Power International 2015

International Energy and Sustainability Conference 2015

The fourth International Energy and Sustainability Conference will be he...

Intersolar North America 2016

Exhibition: July 12 - 14, 2016; Conference: July 11 - 13, 2016 Intersola...


LSX crowns the Jewel of Kahana

Located on Maui, Hawaii, the Jewel of Kahana is a beautiful ma...

We’re Going to Need a Bigger Team

When Hillary Clinton made her ambitious plan to install more than a half...

Don't Be Afraid To Challenge

Too many salespeople tell every prospect the same thing, either because ...


Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now