Spanish companies continued to lead the industry with ownership interest in almost three-fourths of CSP capacity deployed around the world.

Total global CSP capacity increased more than 60% to about 2,550 MW. Most of this capacity was added in Spain, home to more than threefourths of the world’s CSP capacity. No new capacity came on line in the United States, but about 1,300 MW was under construction by year’s end. Elsewhere, more than 100 MW of capacity was operating, mostly in North Africa. The industry is expanding into Australia, Chile, China, India, the MENA region, and South Africa. Falling PV and natural gas prices, the global economic downturn, and policy changes in Spain all created uncertainty for CSP manufacturers and developers.

The concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) market continued to advance in 2012, with total global capacity up more than 60% to about 2,550 MW. The market doubled relative to 2011, with Spain accounting for most of the 970 MW brought into operation. From the end of 2007 through 2012, total global capacity grew at an average annual rate approaching 43%.

Parabolic trough is the most mature technology, and it continues to dominate the market, representing about 95% of facilities in operation at the end of 2011, and 75% of plants under construction by mid 2012.


Towers/central receivers are becoming more common and accounted for 18% of plants under construction by mid-year, followed by Fresnel (6%) and parabolic dish technologies, which are still under development.

Spain continued to lead the world for both deployment and total capacity of CSP, adding 950 MW to increase operating capacity by 95% to a total of 1,950 MW.6 As in the global market, parabolic trough technology dominates in Spain, but 2012 saw completion of the world’s first commercial Fresnel plant.

The world’s first hybrid CSP-biomass plant also came on line. However, policy changes in 2012 and early 2013—including a moratorium on new construction, retroactive feed-in tariff (FIT) changes, and a tax on all electricity producers—pose new challenges to Spain’s industry.

The United States remained the second largest market in terms of total capacity, ending the year with 507 MW in operation.10 As in 2011, no new capacity came on line, but just over 1,300 MW was under construction at the close of 2012, all due to begin operation in the next two years.11 By year’s end, the Ivanpah facility under construction in California’s Mojave Desert was 75% complete; once on line, this 392 MW power tower plant will be the world’s largest CSP facility and is expected to provide enough electricity for 140,000 U.S. homes.12 The Solana plant (280 MW), which was 80% constructed by year’s end, will be the world’s biggest parabolic trough plant upon completion.

Elsewhere, more than 100 MW of capacity was operating at year’s end, with most of this in North Africa. Some relatively small projects came on line in 2012: Australia added 9 MW to its Liddell Power Station, where solar thermal feeds a coal-fired power plant, and Chile became home to the first CSP plant in South America, a 10 MW facility to provide process heat for a mining company.

Other countries with existing CSP that did not add capacity in 2012 include Algeria (25 MW), Egypt (20 MW), and Morocco (20 MW)—all with solar fields included in hybrid solar-gas plants—and Thailand (5 MW).

Several additional countries had small pilot plants in operation, including China, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, and South Korea.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) joined the list of countries with CSP in March 2013, when Shams 1 (100 MW)—the first full-size pure CSP plant in the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region—began operation.

Interest in CSP is on the rise, particularly in developing countries, with investment spreading across Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America. One of the most active markets in 2012 was South Africa, where construction began on a 50 MW solar power tower and a 100 MW trough plant.

Namibia announced plans for a CSP plant by 2015.19 Several development banks committed funds for projects planned in the MENA region, where ambitious targets could result in more than 1 GW of new capacity in North Africa in the next few years for domestic use and export.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE plan to install CSP to meet rapidly growing energy demand and reserve more oil for export, and Jordan is evaluating possible projects; in early 2013, Saudi Arabia launched a competitive bidding process that includes significant CSP capacity.

India planned to complete 500 MW by the end of 2013, but only one-third might be ready on time and some projects have been cancelled; phase two of the National Solar Mission has been delayed.

In Australia, a 44 MW plant is under construction to feed steam to an existing coal facility. Many other countries, including Argentina, Chile and Mexico in Latin America, several countries in Europe, Israel, and China have projects under construction or have indicated intentions to install CSP plants.

Some experts have expressed concern that the window of opportunity for CSP is closing as solar PV prices continue to fall and utilities become more familiar with PV.

However, CSP has a number of attributes that are expected to remain attractive to utilities. These include CSP’s ability to provide thermal storage and thus to be dispatchable and to enable an increased share of variable renewables, and its ability to provide low-cost steam for existing power plants (hybridisation).

In addition, CSP has the potential to provide heating and cooling for industrial processes and desalination.

Although activity continued to focus on Spain and the United States, the industry further expanded its focus in Australia, Chile, China, India, the MENA region, and South Africa.

There was a general trend of diversification of employment in Spain, the United States, and beyond, and global manufacturing capacity increased slightly during 2012.

Falling PV and natural gas prices, the global economic downturn, and policy changes in Spain all created uncertainty for CSP manufacturers and developers.

The top companies in 2012 included Abengoa (Spain), a manufacturer and developer; manufacturer Schott Solar (Germany); and developers Acconia, ACS Cobra, and Torresol (all Spain), as well as ABB (Switzerland), BrightSource (USA), and ACWA.

Saudi-based ACWA emerged as a key player in 2012, with the award of two major projects in alliance with Acciona and TSK, in South Africa and Morocco.

Chinese firms have begun to enter the CSP-related component business and are expected to be major suppliers for the foreseeable future.

Spanish companies continued to lead the industry with ownership interest in almost three-fourths of CSP capacity deployed around the world, and more than 60% of capacity under development or construction by early 2013.

But Spanish firms were challenged by policy changes at home, and companies based elsewhere were not immune from difficulties. The U.S. subsidiary of Germany’s bankrupt Solar Millennium filed for insolvency proceedings, as did SolarHybrid (Germany); BrightSource continued to develop several projects including Ivanpah, but did not go public as planned; and Siemens (Germany) decided to exit the solar business in late 2012, citing intense price pressure in solar markets.

Schott Solar produced its one-millionth solar receiver in November, but as of early 2013 was seeking bids for the majority stake in its CSP unit.

Because CSP requires large capital investments, individual companies are involved in many parts of the value chain, from technology R&D to project operation and ownership. Extensive supply chains are emerging in Spain and the United States, with an increasing number of companies involved in the CSP business.

To increase product value or reduce costs, firms also have begun to expand development efforts to include a variety of CSP technologies.

German Protarget released a new design for applications in the 1–20 MW range to demonstrate that standardized manufacturing processes and modular construction could result in faster and more cost-effective installations.

3M and Gossamer inaugurated a U.S. demonstration facility with the world’s largest aperture parabolic trough; it uses lightweight, highly reflective film rather than glass, with the purpose of significantly reducing installed costs.

A few manufacturers have begun to market solar concentrator technologies for industrial heating and cooling, and desalination, including Solar Power Group (Germany), Sopogy (USA), and Abengoa.

Thermal energy storage is becoming an increasingly important feature for new plants as it allows CSP to dispatch electricity to the grid during cloudy periods or at night, provides firm capacity and ancillary services, and reduces integration challenges.

Molten salt is the most widely used system for storing thermal energy, but other types—including steam, chemical, thermocline (use of temperature differentials), and concrete—are also in use or being tested and developed.

To reduce costs through economies of scale, the size of CSP projects is increasing. While plants in Spain have been limited to 50 MW because of regulatory restrictions, new projects in the United States and elsewhere are in the 150–500 MW range and even larger.

Increasing size helps to reduce costs through economies of scale, but appropriate plant size also depends on technology.

Some projects are also integrating dry cooling solutions that significantly reduce water demand, an advancement that is important in the arid, sunny regions where CSP offers the greatest potential.

CSP prices have declined significantly in recent years, for systems with and without thermal storage.

Although subject to changes in commodity prices, the major components of CSP facilities (including aluminum, concrete, glass, and steel) are generally not in tight supply.



Total End-2011

Added 2012

Total End-2012






United States




























World Total