Cumulative CSP capacity from all 17 operating plants reached 507 MW in 2010. Six U.S. states currently have operating CSP projects.

The 75 MW Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center was completed in 2010; it is the largest U.S. CSP plant to come online in nearly 20 years. Cumulative CSP capacity from all 17 operating plants reached 507 MW in 2010. Six U.S. states currently have operating CSP projects.
There are four main types of CSP technologies: dish-engine, tower, Compact Linear Fresnel Reflector (CLFR), and trough. In the U.S., concentrating solar power (CSP) experienced a burst of project activity in California in the 1980s and then went quiet for two decades.
In the last several years, Spain’s feed-in tariff has allowed it to take the reins as the CSP leader with over 732.4  MW currently operating. But the U.S. is poised to regain leadership with a CSP project pipeline of 41 projects for a combined 9 GW under development in the Southwest.
2010 was a big year for utility-scale solar projects on the permitting front, as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) granted approval for eight major solar projects, including two PV plants (Lucerne, Silver State), and six CSP plants (Ivanpah, Blythe, Genesis, Amargosa, Imperial, and Calico).
Two of these CSP projects, Imperial & Calico, were later sold by Tessera/Stirling to PV developers. But even as the dish-engine leader was scaling back operations, other CSP developers were moving forward on plants that will be the largest solar projects ever built.
More specifically, in Q4 BrightSource closed financing and broke ground on its 392 MW Ivanpah tower plant, while Abengoa broke ground on its 280 MW Solana trough project.


In 2010, three CSP projects came online in the U.S. In Q1, the 1.5 MW Tessera/Stirling Maricopa Dish-Engine project was completed in Arizona. In Q2, the 1 MW Abengoa Solar Cameo Hybrid plant (also known as the Colorado Integrated Solar Project) came online in Colorado.

In Q4, FPL’s 75 MW Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center (MNGSEC) entered commercial operation. The total installed capacity in 2010 was 77.5 MW.

The CSP industry in the U.S. was effectively dormant from 1992 to 2006. In 2007, there was one project of scale: a 64 MW trough plant in Nevada. The last three years have seen the construction of several small demonstration plants for various technologies: a 5 MW CLFR plant in California in 2008, a 5 MW tower plant in California in 2009, and a 1 MW micro-CSP plant in Hawaii in 2009.

The 75 MW FP&L Martin Solar plant in Indiantown, Florida came online in the fourth quarter of 2010. The Martin plant is a hybrid plant, as it will connect to an existing combined-cycle natural gas power plant at the site.


2011 is likely to be a light year for CSP with few projects expected to see completion within the year. However, there are over 6.4 GW of CSP projects with signed utility power purchase agreements (PPAs) with expected completion between 2011 and 2017.

The first major growth year for CSP is expected in 2013 with at least eight projects slated to be commissioned then. In subsequent years, increasing uncertainty regarding financing, permitting, environmental converns and approvals surrounds the pipeline.