Concentrated Solar Power

A place in the sun?

IRENA LCoE graph - CSP versus photovoltaic
Source: IRENA, Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2017

Distributed Energy Futures is supporting a young company optimising Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) installations. CSP technology promises to deliver 24/7 grid scale dispatchable power in sun-rich countries.

CSP versus Photovoltaic

CSP has been around since the first modern plant was completed in 1968 in Italy. However, many early plants were uncompetitive due to high capital costs, disappointing output and poor reliability. In terms of direct conversion of sunlight to electricity, photovoltaic (PV) technologies are far cheaper, with values as low as $0.03/kWh being increasingly common.

Adding Thermal Storage makes the difference

The addition of thermal storage to CSP installations is proving to be a game changer. A large CSP installation (100MW+) with a big heat store can buffer enough heat to provide 24/7 dispatchable power. Several projects currently under construction have Power Purchase Agreements in the $0.05-$0.07 range. Thermal storage at scale is far cheaper than battery storage, so these values are more than competitive with large PV plants with equivalent storage.

The result is a sudden, massive growth of interest in CSP in Middle Eastern and North African countries. CSP can be a key factor in the migration from carbon dependency to an economy driven by cheap renewable energy. China is also investing heavily in CSP as part of its diversified energy strategy. This is a technology to watch for in the coming years.