Is it true that power plants and solar developers are starting to shift from Solar Thermal to PV?

Yep, the shift is indeed happening, but why?

As mentioned in the post on How Does Solar Thermal Differ from Photovoltaics, solar thermal is also an efficient, clean, and renewable solar power resource. Numerous power plants are devoted to solar thermal energy; however, due to certain changes in the market as well as range of use, PV has become the more sought out technology for power, especially in California.

Let’s take a look at why PV is rising above solar thermal technology.

Whenever consumers make a purchase, cost is probably one of the initial inquiries and concerns. Not surprisingly, it so happens that cost is a major factor in the current shift in technology. The cost of PV panels has been dropping significantly and has swayed many solar developers to scrap initial thermal plans to make the move toward a sounder investment with greater potentials and room for advancement.

Having to justify costs to state regulators also play an important influential push toward PV.

By taking advantage of the falling prices of PV, this not only benefits the solar developers and manufacturers, but also the electricity consumers. Several California projects have already initiated the change.

As noted in the Mercury News:

“Three years ago, renewable energy developers laid plans to populate the American Southwest with massive solar thermal power plants, which concentrate the sun’s rays to boil water and create steam to turn turbines that generate electricity. But as the projects went through lengthy permitting and environmental reviews, the price of photovoltaic solar panels plummeted because of a global oversupply driven by a glut of low-cost panels from China.”

PV, being more easily and quickly produced and installed than solar thermal, is winning the solar race.

This movement will also help save a lot of the birds and animals that have been negatively affected by the salinity in the thermal cooling ponds. In addition to saving animals, water can also be conserved for other uses rather than for solar thermal energy production in the steaming and cooling processes.

The other reason why many solar developers have shifted is due to the comparison of the footprint each technology requires. With PV, less acres of land are needed to generate relatively the same amount of net generation.

PV has a greater range of scale and can be built virtually anywhere – residential and commercial rooftops as well as ground installation aside from power plants.

Who are the people interested besides solar developers and power plants?

Banks and utilities are making plans or have already made plans to go with PV contracts.

Here’s a great excerpt from a solar industry analyst with Navigant Consulting:

“PV is very cheap right now and it’s faster to put up,” said Paula Mints. Solar thermal, she added, “takes about two years to build. With PV there’s more instant gratification.”

PV is holding its ground in remarkable ways. Persistence and belief in our products validate our mission to provide nothing but the best.