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Schott Solar considers CSP equipment production in India

Schott Solar is contemplating establishing a future manufacturing base for concentrating solar power (CSP) kit in India, as the competitive landscape for CSP readjusts in the wake of Siemens’ exit from the market.

Schott and Siemens have long held a duopoly in the market for the receivers used at parabolic-trough plants, still the dominant form of CSP technology.

A number of relatively new entrants are angling for future receiver business, such as China-based Huiyin Group, founded by the brothers behind Israel’s Solel, which was acquired by Siemens in 2009. Such companies are expected to grow on the back of projects in their home markets.

But for the foreseeable future, Siemens’ exit means that Schott effectively controls the market for parabolic-trough receivers – the tubes that carry the fluid that is heated by sunlight reflected off the curved mirrors.

Schott’s existing production lines – one in Germany and two in Spain – allow it to produce 600MW of receivers each year. The company also produces thin-film PV modules in Germany.

Patrick Markschläger, who was recently appointed managing director of Schott Solar CSP, says that in the near term the company anticipates being able to keep up with demand out of its existing facilities, which have room for modest expansions.

More important than space, however, is the powerful shift in demand away from places like Spain and the US, and towards emerging markets such as the Middle East, India, North and South Africa, and China.

Among the major projects in such markets which Schott is supplying are Masdar’s 100MW Shams 1 project in the United Arab Emirates, and the 50MW Godawari project in Rajasthan – the first CSP plant to emerge from India’s National Solar Mission.

Schott recently delivered more than 17,000 of its fourth-generation receivers to Godawari.

“Over the long run, if the Indian market develops like we expect it to, there’s a possibility that we could start up production in India, especially if there’s a demand for local content,” Markschläger tells Recharge.

Schott already maintains a manufacturing site in India for glass pipes unrelated to CSP, he adds.

Receivers account for about 7% of the upfront cost of a modern 50MW parabolic-trough plant with 7.5 hours of storage, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Markschläger acknowledges that power-tower technology – such as that employed by BrightSource at the 367MW Ivanpah project under construction in the Mojave desert – poses a competitive challenge to parabolic trough.

“In the long run, towers will take a certain percentage of the CSP market,” he says. “But I think it will be below 50%.”

Bankability will still be an issue for tower technology for the next few years, and over a longer time horizon it will struggle in dusty climates, such as those in key Middle Eastern markets, given the long distance between the mirrors and the receiver set atop the tower.