Developers of the Blythe Solar Power Project in California switched from solar thermal technology to photovoltaic solar panels. This is one of the similar changes made by large-scale solar power plants. Solar Millennium, which is the developer of the project, said that the first 500-megawatt phase of the plant will now utilize photovoltaic panels because they are more cost effective.
The company received a loan guarantee worth $2.1 billion from the Department of Energy to develop a concentrating solar thermal plant. The deal was to be finalized by September 30. But the Germany-based Solar Millennium and its local subsidiary, Solar Trust, said it would use PV technology and commercial financing for the project. Groundbreaking ceremonies were already made last June that was attended by California Governor Jerry Brown and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
Several other large-scale solar projects in the southwest of the United States have decided to forego thermal solar power and instead use photovoltaic solar panels. It was reported that a total of 2,515 megawatts of solar capacity has converted to PV panels.
It goes to show how the costs of photovoltaic solar panels have gone down to competitive levels. Solar PV systems have reduced their prices by up to 50 percent in the last two years. Now alternative energy developers are turning to photovoltaic solar panels for their projects.
Analysts are betting that more large solar thermal projects will turn to PV technology in the near future. But it is not just financial reasons why some of them are switching towards PV solar panels. A developer was turned down by commercial banks that were unwilling to provide loans for a new solar thermal technology.
Solar Millennium has left the book open for the second half of its 1,000 megawatt project in California. It hasn’t decided yet as to what technology it would use for it. Once the project is completed, it would be the largest solar power plant in the planet. The company said that it would still use concentrated solar power in its projects outside the United States. Solar thermal power plants have the capability to store energy via molten salt.
Solar Millennium CEO Christoph Wolff said that CSP has advantages over other sustainable energy sources and it is highly valued by utilities around the world. Most of the plants would combine both PV and CSP technologies to bring the best solar solutions for their customers.