While solar PV supports the most jobs among the various renewable energy technologies, CSP is known to be more labor intensive.
Much of the work required to build a CSP plant needs be performed locally. The largest contribution to job creation happens when a CSP plant is under construction. And when the plant is ready, a significant number of workers are required to carry out essential operation and maintenance (O&M) during the lifespan of the plant.
“During the CSP deployment period in Spain – from 2007 to 2013, when 2,300 MW were installed – there were close to 30,000 jobs corresponding to the construction of plants,” says Luis Crespo, chairman of the Spanish Solar Thermal Electricity Association (Protermosolar) and president of the European Solar Thermal Electricity Association (ESTELA).
Today, Spain’s CSP sector employs around 5,000 people and South Africa’s about 8,900. Worldwide, the industry employs an estimated 34,000 workers, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency’s 2018 annual job review.
“CSP projects create a large number of non-skilled, semi-skilled and skilled jobs during the 24 to 36-month construction phase,” says Pancho Ndebele, founder and CEO of South Africa’s Emvelo Group. The developer’s flagship project Ilanga CSP 1, scheduled to come online in December 2018, saw 1,500 workers at the peak of construction, 85% of which were locals.
CSP projects also provide an enormous opportunity for local suppliers of products such as glass, steel, concrete, piping and cabling, which boosts the number of overall jobs created in the vicinity of a project.
For example, all the glass (1.2 million m2) in SolarReserve’s 110 MW Crescent Dunes plant (Nevada, USA) was locally sourced, with assembly of heliostats completed on site by local workers.
Similarly, the 2,000 tons of structural steel required in this project were US sourced, as was most of the piping, cabling and valves. In addition, about 60 percent of the project’s construction sub-contractors were Nevada based and 90 percent were US based.
Overalls, Crescent Dunes created more than 4,300 direct, indirect and induced jobs, with peak on-site employment of over 1,050 construction jobs. About 25 of the 40 permanent workers required for the plant’s O&M were hired from the local town of Tonopah, Nevada.
“CSP tower technology with integrated molten salt energy storage operates in the same way as a conventional power station with steam powered generation. As a result, we have found that many of the jobs require the same skillsets as conventional energy jobs – from construction through to operations,” says Kevin Smith, chief executive officer of SolarReserve.
CSP also creates new job opportunities, where employees are provided with on-the-job training in new skills, such as heliostat assembly and heliostat field technicians, adds Smith.
In Morocco, the average rate of local workers increased from 30 percent in Noor Ouarzazate I to 50 percent in Noor Ouarzazate II and III, showing how much CSP-related skills have grown in the country over the last few years.
The three phases of the CSP complex employed 2,000, 4,000, and 2,500 people respectively during construction, according to MASEN.
“In those countries that request a specific level either in overall local content or in local employment – as was the case with Morocco and South Africa respectively – the obligations have been largely exceeded”, says Crespo.
“These experiences should motivate other countries as CSP is not only essential for the energy transition, but it is also a powerful lever for economic development.”