NREL found that the value of energy delivered by dry-cooled parabolic trough and solar power tower plants with storage is similar.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratories has released a new report that looks at the performance and cost values of different designs of concentrating solar power (CSP) plants integrated with energy storage.

The report found additional benefits for integrating six to nine hours of thermal energy storage, noting that simple levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) models miss the value that these plants add. It also found that the value of delivered energy for dry-cooled solar power tower and parabolic trough CSP plants integrated with storage is similar.

“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 modeled 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 report was funded through the DOE’s office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) in support of DOE’s SunShot Initiative. The study provides quantitative results for a Colorado test system, evaluating how the operational and capacity value varies with plant configuration.

NREL is currently undertaking a similar analysis looking at the value of different CSP configurations using a California test system under the assumption of 40% renewable energy penetration.

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.”