New Opportunities for the Concentrated Solar Thermal Power Industry

CSP project environmental approval and CSP-PV mix signifies even more potential for the concentrated solar thermal power industry to grow in the US

April 07, 2012

With the recent approval of Solar Reserve's 200-megawatt, two-tower Saguache Solar Energy Project comes a sense of excitement for not only Solar Reserve, but the industry as a whole. As Solana, Ivanpah, Cresecent Dunes and Rice projects continue to be constructed; this is the first announcement of a new CSP project, showing that installed CSP capacity is increasing at steady rate in 2012.

This is set to continue as more research has looked into a CSP-PV mix to boost total output and smooth integration on the grid. Under ideal conditions the delivery curve from PV does not really match the demand curve for electricity: peak output tends to happen around midday, whereas high demand in western countries can extend well into the afternoon or even evening.

This has become a concern in places such as California, where the hope is that cheap PV can significantly assist in meeting renewable energy and carbon reduction targets.

Currently, according to modelling done by Paul Denholm and Mark Mehos of the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), at low levels of penetration (up to 10% of total energy a year), PV displaces the highest-cost generation sources and cuts the need for peaking capacity.

However, they state: "As the amount of PV on the system increases, the need for operating reserves also increases due to the uncertainty of the solar resource, as well as its variability over multiple time scales."

This further emphasises CSP's value and importance of being able provide dispatcahable power. As storage becomes more valued it is good news for developers like Solar Reserve who develop plants that comprise of storage technology making capacity more flexible and more valuable.

At CSP Today USA 2012 (27-28 June, Las Vegas), Kevin Smith, CEO of Solar Reserve and Paul Denholm Senior Energy Analyst, NREL will present at CSP's Strategy Planning Meeting: Communicating CSP's competitive value to win a greater stake in the US energy mix.

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