What is a Solar Power Plant

Solar Power Plant is a Device which generates power or electricity using Solar Energy.Note normally solar power plants refers to large ground mounted solar farms rather than the residential solar rooftop projects.However it is only a matter of usage and a solar power plant can refer to a very small solar panel of 5 watts as well as a huge solar plant of 100s of megawatts consisting of hundreds of thousands of solar panels.

Types of Solar Power Plants

Note there are a number of solar energy technologies which convert the power from the sun to electricity.However the two main solar technologies in use are Solar Thermal Technology and Solar Photovoltaic Technology.Current Solar PV Technology accounts of the lion’s share of solar power generated globally and is gaining more marketshare as costs of solar power decrease.

Financing of Solar Energy Projects in India under JNNSM is proving to be a huge problem for the winners of Phase 1 auction under the federal subsidy scheme.Solar Energy in India has huge potential and attracted a number of companies to the first phase of the government tender under the 2020 plan to install 20 GW of solar energy.Note 620 MW of projects in the 5 MW and above category were awarded to 37 solar companies.Many of these firms had no background and had bid irrationally low to win these projects.With little experience and no established financial infrastructure it was an accident waiting to happen.MNRE offical has revealed that 18 of the companies have failed to achieve financial closure and would probably lose their license by the July 9 deadline.Note most of these bids were irrationally low and would not have made profits.Indian Banks and power financing institutions have refused to lend quite prudently.Note these companies are not putting collateral using their parent company’s assets which means that they too doubt the feasibility of their projects.Only huge penalties will deter future non serious participants as at least half of the solar power capacity won’t get installed in JNNSM Phase 1.It remains to be seen how this affects the future of the Indian Solar Mission.

Offshore Wind Energy is supposed to increase from around 3 GW today to 75 GW by 2020 as countries in Europe,Asia and North America heavily support this industry.Onshore wind energy growth on the other hand is expected to slow down as 38 GW of Wind Capacity were installed in 2010 with Western Markets showing a sharp slowdown.Note every industry sees costs declining with large capacity except the mature industries.For example Wind Energy has seen a 10% decline in costs for every 100% increase in installed capacity.Note offshore wind projects offer even more Wind Energy Advantages than normal Land Based Wind Farms.The only problem facing offshore wind power is high costs as the industry still is on the learning curve.PWC has come up with a survey where most of the participants say that it will take 10-15 years for offshore wind energy to reach grid parity.What this means is that Offshore Wind Energy Companies will continue to depend on government subsidies like higher electricity prices,tax breaks,low interest loans to survive.

eSolar is a US based Solar Thermal Technology Startup which has managed to raise $182 million from top VCs and investors and managed to win contracts to build solar power plants using its properietary Power Tower Technology in the US,China and India.Note like Brightsource Energy,eSolar is one of the most promising CSP startups which has managed to get funding and contracts,it now needs to execute to deliver on its potential.

Solar is using the Power Tower Technology same as Brightsource Technology which differs from the parabolic trough mainstream CSP Technology.Note Parabolic Trough Technology is used by most of the established Spanish players like Abengoa.It is also the Technology used in the 392 MW largest solar thermal plant in the US built in the 1980s by Luz.In this technology thousands of heliostats (mirrors) reflect the solar light onto a “Power Tower” where water or salt is heated up.This heat energy is then transferred into Electrical Energy through standard Steam Turbines and Generators used in Gas,Nuclear and Thermal Power Plants.

Areva the French Nuclear Giant which is known more for producing equipment for nuclear power plants is been awarded federal funding by the Australian Government to build a solar coal hybrid plant in Queensland.The 44 MW Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) Plant will be built near a 750 Thermal Power Station.This will be the second solar coal hybrid plant in the world when its gets finished in 2013.Note Areva has huge plans in the Solar Thermal Technology Industry after buying startup Ausra sometimes ago.The company which is an expert in power plant equipment technology such as boilers,turbines will use its expertise to build a CSP plant adding to the power output of the Kogan Creek Thermal Station.Note the cost mentioned implies around $2.4/watt which does not seem expensive.The CSP Coal Hybrid will not require storage which will help in reducing the costs of the power plant.Note a number of Fossil Fuel Solar Hybrid Plants are being planned around the world.Almost all of these power plants use CSP Technology instead of the PV Technology.Its a valuable niche for Solar Thermal Companies to explore as they face huge competition from Solar PV which is drastically reducing its costs to reach retail electricity price equality.

Brightsource Energy,the Solar Thermal Startup has been making huge progress getting high profile investors and managing a $1.37 billion DOE grant for its Ivanpah 392 MW Solar Thermal Power Plant.The Company has managed to get its billion dollar Ivanpah Project financed through equity investments from NRG Energy and Google.It is now looking set to do an IPO which would allow its Stock to List and gain further funds for expansion in USA,China and India.Note I don’t think Solar Thermal Technology is managing to compete effectively with the fast declining costs of Solar Photovoltaic Technology.However there still exists a niche area for Solar Thermal Companies and Technology.Note there are a number of Solar Thermal Companies fighting for the No.1 Position which includes giants like Siemens,Areva,Abengoa and startups like eSolar.Which one of these companies will be successful in the face of the Solar PV Onslaught is a matter of debate.However Brightsource has certainly stole a march through smart funding.Here is some facts about Brightsource Energy