Solar emerging as competitor for utility-scale electric generation

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The adoption of U.S. utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) plants is expected to accelerate during the next decade, according to research from Frost & Sullivan. This will move the technology forward as a contender in a pool of conventional forms of electricity generation.

Renewable portfolio standards, federal incentives such as investment tax credits and loan programs are driving large-scale commercialization of solar energy. As solar energy competes with conventional forms of electricity generation, the potential market for utility-scale solar power plants in the country is on the rise.

Cumulative PV solar installations in the U.S. reached 1,855 MW with the utility-scale segment accounting for 32.2 percent.

"Though no new CSP plants were installed in the United States during 2011, projects totaling more than 1.4 gigawatts were under construction," said Frost & Sullivan Senior Industry Analyst Georgina Benedetti, which should speed up overall market growth.

However, before banks and investors fund these projects, they need some level of assurance that a power plant will operate long enough to see a return on their investment.

"Therefore, well-established project developers using proven technologies will have an advantage in obtaining financing," said Benedetti.

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