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Areva Solar to Build Asia's Largest CSP Plant

India's enormous solar potential has until now been seen mostly through the lens of a PV module. But this week's news that Areva Solar is planning a 250-megawatt project in the country's Rajasthan region is noteworthy for its size and its technology.

India is making a big push to become a major solar market. The vehicle of choice so far has been PV, partly because of its ability to scale up quickly but mostly because of the steep drop in prices over the past year. That has left little room for a technology like concentrating solar power (CSP), which has the ability to tie into existing power plants and to incorporate storage with molten salt.

Even as India embarks on a plan to get to 20 gigawatts of solar power by 2022, it has made relatively little headway with CSP. The country, though, may be an ideal spot for the technology, which thrives in areas with intense sunlight, which measured as direct normal irradiance. There are currently two CSP plants in operation, and they total about 11 MW. Several projects are under development, but they are many times smaller than the deal announced this week.

Under a contract with Reliance Power of India, Areva Solar will build and manage two 125 MW plants using Compact Linear Fresnel Reflector (CLFR) technology. According to the company, the first phase of the project is under construction, and commercial operation is expected to start in May of 2013. Once completed, it would be the largest CSP facility in Asia.

Areva is best known for the 44-MW addition it is building to the Kogan Creek coal plant in Australia. In January, the company announced a deal with Tucson Electric Power in Arizona to add 5 MW to an existing coal plant in Tucson.

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