The US NREL has released a new report which finds that concentrating solar power (CSP) with thermal energy storage can provide significant value for utilities.
The US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL, Golden, Colorado, US) has released a new report which finds that concentrating solar power (CSP) with thermal energy storage can provide significant value for utilities.
"Simulating the Value of Concentrating Solar Power with Thermal Energy Storage in a Production Cost Model" finds that CSP with six-hour thermal storage capacity can lower peak net loads enough to add USD 0.358/kWh to the capacity and operational value of utilities, compared to solar photovoltaic (PV) generation.
"We’ve known for a long time that CSP with storage adds significant value, however, we are now able to quantify this value in the language utilities understand," said NREL Concentrating Solar Power Program Manager Mark Mehos.
Model based on 34% renewable energy penetration
The report’s authors employed Energy Exemplar’s PLEXOS simulation model that allowed them to isolate the relative value of CSP with and without storage.
The USD 0.358/kWh price is based on a scenario where renewables supply 34% of a utility’s mix. Where renewable energy penetration is lower, CSP with thermal energy storage provides less additional value.
Molten salt storage tank at the Andasol CSP plant in Spain.
Displacement of natural gas generation an asset
NREL states that the additional value is due to the ability of CSP with thermal energy storage to displace more expensive gas-fired generation during peak loads, rather than displacing lower-priced coal, as well as the ability to continue to meet peak load needs in the evenings after the sun has set.
The agency notes that the study is the first time that the operational and capacity value of CSP with thermal storage has been evaluated using a production cost model, which utilities traditionally have relied on for planning.