NREL report finds similar value in two concentrating solar power technologies

February 12, 2014

Parabolic troughs and dry-cooled towers deliver similar value for concentrating solar power (CSP) plants, despite different solar profiles, a new report by the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory has found.

The report, "Estimating the Performance and Economic Value of Multiple Concentrating Solar Power Technologies in a Production Cost Model," found that the value of delivered of dry-cooled tower and parabolic trough CSP plants, integrated with , are quite similar.

CSP with storage is a unique source of in that the solar thermal energy can be dispatched in a similar manner as conventional thermal generation to respond to changes in supply or demand.

CSP uses the thermal energy of sunlight to generate electricity. Parabolic troughs and power towers both concentrate sunlight onto a heat-transfer liquid, which is used to drive a steam turbine. Unlike photovoltaic energy, CSP can generate electricity not just when the sun is shining, but also after sundown, because a CSP plant can be built with thermal , such as molten salt.

"In our study, we analyzed various plant configurations and identified specific ones that provide significantly more value than has been found in previous analyses," said NREL Analyst Jennie Jorgenson, the lead author of the report. "For example, we explored the potential benefits of extending thermal storage at CSP plants beyond six hours, a typically modelled amount. In this analysis we found additional benefits for six to nine hours of storage, but rapidly diminishing benefits for greater than nine hours of storage."

The NREL report, funded through the Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in support of its SunShot Initiative, provides valuable quantitative results in a Colorado test system, comparing the two CSP technologies with thermal energy storage and evaluating how the operational and capacity value varies with plant configuration. The report also demonstrates that multiple CSP technologies and plant configurations can be analyzed using traditional planning tools such as production cost models.

NREL is currently undertaking a similar analysis looking at the value of multiple CSP configurations in California under an assumed 40% penetration of renewables within that state.

"For both conventional and renewable energy systems, low levelized cost of energy does not necessarily reflect these systems' total value to the grid," Jorgenson added. "So, providing tools that utilities and grid operators are familiar with can lead to more informed decision-making as greater levels of renewable energy penetrate the market."

Explore further: New methods to examine the potential of concentrating thermal solar power

More information: Report: www.nrel.gov/docs/fy14osti/58645.pdf

Related Stories

Research uses mirrors to make solar energy cost competitive

April 16, 2013

If the current national challenge to make solar energy cost competitive with other forms of energy by the end of this decade is met, Ranga Pitchumani, the John R. Jones III Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Virginia ...

Ivanpah solar plant in California starts energy feed to grid

September 27, 2013

The world's largest solar thermal plant began to feed energy into the power grid on Tuesday, considered a solar energy milestone, in a project scheduled to be fully operational by the end of the year. The system delivered ...

Arizona solar plant achieves six hours after sun goes down

October 11, 2013

(Phys.org) —Abengoa's Solana plant in the desert near Gila Bend, Arizona, passed commercial testing this week The 280-megawatt Solana solar thermal power plant producing electricity without direct sunlight made the announcement ...

Recommended for you

Interactive tool lifts veil on the cost of nuclear energy

August 24, 2015

Despite the ever-changing landscape of energy economics, subject to the influence of new technologies and geopolitics, a new tool promises to root discussions about the cost of nuclear energy in hard evidence rather than ...

Smart home heating and cooling

August 28, 2015

Smart temperature-control devices—such as thermostats that learn and adjust to pre-programmed temperatures—are poised to increase comfort and save energy in homes.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.