Headline: Scaling up CSP: How long will it take?

Concentrating solar power (CSP) is one of the few scalable technologies capable of delivering dispatchable renewable power. Therefore, many expect it to shoulder a significant share of system balancing in a renewable electricity future powered by cheap, intermittent PV and wind power: the IEA, for example, projects 73 GW CSP by 2030 and several hundred GW by 2050 in its Net-Zero by 2050 pathway. In this paper, we assess how fast CSP can be expected to scale up and how long time it would take to get new, high-efficiency CSP technologies to market, based on observed trends and historical patterns. We find that to meaningfully contribute to net-zero pathways the CSP sector needs to reach and exceed the maximum historical annual growth rate of 30%/year last seen between 2010-2014 and maintain it for at least two decades. Any CSP deployment in the 2020s will rely mostly on mature existing technologies, namely parabolic trough and molten-salt towers, but likely with adapted business models such as hybrid CSP-PV stations, combining the advantages of higher-cost dispatchable and low-cost intermittent power. New third-generation CSP designs are unlikely to play a role in markets during the 2020s, as they are still at or before the pilot stage and, judging from past pilot-to-market cycles for CSP, they will likely not be ready for market deployment before 2030. CSP can contribute to low-cost zero-emission energy systems by 2050, but to make that happen, at the scale foreseen in current energy models, ambitious technology-specific policy support is necessary, as soon as possible and in several countries.

Publication Year
Publication Type
Academic Articles

Lilliestam, J., Du, F., Gilmanova, A., Mehos, M., Wang, Z., & Thonig, R. (2023). Scaling up CSP: How long will it take? AIP conference proceedings, 2815(1): 050003. doi:10.1063/5.0148709.

Staff involved
Projects involved
Solar Thermal Power Plants: Generating transformation knowledge with open data (Open CSP)