Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) with thermal storage offers significant, quantifiable economic, reliability and operational benefits for utilities and grid operators.
The Concentrating Solar Power Alliance (CSPA), an advocacy organization dedicated to educating U.S. regulators, utilities and grid operators about the unique benefits of Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) and of thermal energy storage, today issued a technical report titled, “The Economic and Reliability Benefits of CSP with Thermal Energy Storage: Recent Studies and Research Needs.” At over 100 pages, the thorough report summarizes a broad cross-section of analysis conducted by the national energy labs and academic institutions. The objective of the report is to assist in the translation of the available studies and provide a more comprehensive framework that regulators and utilities can use for solar valuation purposes.
“This report comes at a time when utilities and grid operators are evaluating the true cost and operational impacts of higher penetrations of variable resources,” said Tex Wilkins, Executive Director of the CSP Alliance. “The independent research compiled from the national labs and universities, as well as the findings shared by CSP companies, shows that CSP with storage will be a very important, valuable resource for utilities and grid operators as different countries aim to achieve clean energy goals.”
The report highlights the benefits of CSP with thermal energy storage, including provision of energy and ancillary services and enhanced capacity credits. It also covers avoidance of system integration costs incurred by intermittent renewable resources such as wind and solar photovoltaics, support for power quality, and possible additional benefits, such as improved long-term reductions in greenhouse gas emissions when compared to portfolios without dispatchable clean resources.
Among the report’s key conclusions:
- Recent research finds that at low renewable penetration levels, thermal storage adds energy and ancillary service value to a CSP plant. These benefits are in the range of $5-10/MWh, depending on the plant design and the region studied. CSP with thermal storage also has significantly higher capacity value when compared to variable solar resources.
- At higher solar penetration levels, studies show that the comparative economic value of incremental CSP with storage diverges dramatically from incremental solar PV additions, possibly increasing to $30/MWh or higher as penetrations increase. This finding is critical for the development of the solar portfolio in regions with high solar potential.
- As renewable penetrations increase, the operational flexibility offered by CSP could support integration of wind and solar photovoltaics. In particular, some studies have pointed to the possibility of curtailment of solar energy at high penetrations, which could be reduced by maintaining dispatchable solar resources in the portfolio.
As regulators, utilities and grid operators consider their future energy portfolio mix and procurement decisions, they are increasingly applying a “net system cost” methodology when evaluating resources, which considers factors such as system integration and reliability under different scenarios. The findings presented in this report will contribute to the evolution of those methodologies and a more appropriate valuation of a dispatchable, clean resource such as CSP with thermal energy storage.
“The purpose of this report is to synthesize the current study findings and identify some additional research needs. A robust body of research is available and demonstrates that CSP with storage provides additional economic and reliability value to utilities and grid operators when compared to other renewable investments,” said Dr. Udi Helman, Director of Economic and Pricing Analysis, BrightSource Energy. “CSP’s ability to reduce its costs through commercial deployment, coupled with its long-term economic and reliability value when compared to other renewables, helps position this technology as a key component of a low carbon energy mix.”
The CSP Alliance is a public policy advocacy organization dedicated to bringing increased awareness and visibility to this sustainable, dispatchable technology. Our membership includes many of the world’s largest CSP corporations and their supply-chain partners. Our objectives include advancing the industry’s value proposition, addressing issues of job creation and environmental sustainability, and setting the foundation for future uses of the technology. Click here to see our current members.
To download the full report, including a comprehensive list of literature, studies and research used in the report, please visit