Utility-Scale Concentrating Solar Power and Photovoltaics Projects: A Technology and Market Overview
Over the last several years, solar energy technologies have been, or are in the process of being, deployed at unprecedented levels. A critical recent development, resulting from the massive scale of projects in progress or recently completed, is having the power sold directly to electric utilities. Such 'utility-scale' systems offer the opportunity to deploy solar technologies far faster than the traditional 'behind-the-meter' projects designed to offset retail load. Moreover, these systems have employed significant economies of scale during construction and operation, attracting financial capital, which in turn can reduce the delivered cost of power. This report is a summary of the current U.S. utility-scale solar state-of-the-market and development pipeline. Utility-scale solar energy systems are generally categorized as one of two basic designs: concentrating solar power (CSP) and photovoltaic (PV). CSP systems can be further delineated into four commercially available technologies: parabolic trough, central receiver (CR), parabolic dish, and linear Fresnel reflector. CSP systems can also be categorized as hybrid, which combine a solar-based system (generally parabolic trough, CR, or linear Fresnel) and a fossil fuel energy system to produce electric power or steam.
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National Renewable Energy Laboratory