The need for increasing project scale is driving a round of partnerships and acquisitions that could soon see the CSP industry reduced to a few vertically-integrated monoliths and this could be aiding the raise of the Fresnel technology with AREVA entering strongly this market.
In an industry that has seen more than its fair share of mergers and acquisitions in the last couple of years, independent players are becoming something of a rarity.
A good example of the vertically integrated corporations is Siemens, Europe's largest engineering conglomerate, which other than producing steam turbines had little to do with the CSP market until last year. Then, in March 2009, it bought 29% of the Italian solar company Archimede Solar Energy, followed by the acquisition of Solel Solar Systems for US$418 million in October.
Other recent examples of large corporations entering the CSP market include Chevron and Alstom partnering with BrightSource and MAN Ferrostaal joint venturing with Solar Millennium.
It certainly came as a surprise to analysts that in February 2010 AREVA acquired Ausra, a Fresnel technology provider. With little track record and installed capacity, Fresnel wasn´t considered as one of the main CSP technologies, but rather an innovation, which makes it harder to finance.
The rise of the Fresnel technology is one of the subjects that will be discussed and analysed at depth in the future technology section of the 4th International Concentrated Solar Thermal Power Summit in Sevilla (November 15-17) This event has become the most relevant meeting event for the CSP industry.
With the entry of AREVA in the market, a new era for CSP has begun, where a new technology could be compared in warranties and bankability with parabolic troughs. With a modular approach and lower temperatures, fresnel was originally thought to belong in a different market for industrial heat applications.
AREVA Solar's chief executive Dr Bob Fishman, formerly the head of Ausra, says: "We aligned with Areva because we knew that to compete in the global power industry we needed to be part of a global power company from the standpoint of execution, bankability and customer reach.
"These elements are the keys to moving to the head of the pack in the CSP landscape. The companies that will survive will either merge with or enter strategic alliances with global energy leaders. What we are likely to see is a thinning of the pack."
Building CSP plants require engineering firms that are able to offer performance guarantees. Big companies like AREVA are playing to these strengths and have also got big investment horizons. This is a market where size matters therefore it is going to be tough for any small company.
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