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500 MW of California Solar Shifts from CSP to PV

In an announcement that underscored the growing shift from concentrating solar power (CSP) technology to photovoltaics, especially in the United States, Solar Millennium announced that it would convert its 500-megawatt (MW) project in Blythe, Calif. to PV.

In a press release Thursday, U.S. subsidiary Solar Trust of America, cited the lower cost of PV modules and more favorable lending conditions for the shift in technology.

Construction has already begun on the first phase of the project. When completed, the two-phase project will be 1,000 MW – far larger than any current operating site.

Solar Millennium said it will continue to specialize in CSP in select international markets. "Our long-term strategy remains unchanged,” said CEO Christoph Wolff. "We see solid demand for CSP in the world's growth markets such as Africa, the Middle East, India and China. This is also true for Southern Europe where we have just achieved financial close on our fourth CSP plant in Spain," Wolff added.

Earlier this year, the Department of Energy approved a $2.1 billion loan guarantee for the construction of 500 MW of CSP at the Blythe site. However, the company said it decided to surrender that conditional backing in order to move toward PV. The company is now in discussions with PV panel manufacturers.

"We strongly believe solar thermal technology will continue to fuel our market growth. The advantages of CSP as a grid-stabilizing renewable energy source with storage capabilities are obvious and highly valued by utilities elsewhere in the world. They will soon become systematically acknowledged in the US, as well. This includes the use of hybrid PV/CSP plants," Wolff said.

In the U.S., CSP has dominated utility-scale operations – both those in operation and under construction. More than 60 percent of the total utility-scale capacity is currently produced at CSP plants. About 70 percent of the developments under construction use CSP technology. However, PV has drawn more interest for projects down the road, accounting for 65 percent of the 25 gigawatts currently in the development pipeline.

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