US solar thermal project developer SolarReserve has hopes to build a concentrating solar power plant in Saudi Arabia that could boast up to 600 MW of baseload capacity.

The plans by the Santa Monica–based company will be submitted to Saudi authorities in the hope that the concept will be acceptable for upcoming auctions of solar capacity as part of the kingdom’s commitment to build 42 GW of solar.

Saudi Arabia has indicated it will offer 1,100 MW of solar PV capacity and a further 900 MW of solar thermal capacity in the first round of auctions, which could be called by the end of this year.

If possible, SolarReserve would look to combine capacity in both CSP and PV at the one location. That would include four solar thermal towers with storage, and a further 400 MW of solar PV.

The combination would allow solar PV to contribute during the daylight hours, with the solar towers working to store most of the energy it collects from the sun for use during the evening.

Together, that would provide some 600 MW of baseload capacity, something that most people would have thought would have been beyond renewable energy from the sun.

Tom Georgis, senior vice president of development at SolarReserve, says Saudi Arabia has a baseload profile because of its high temperatures and high humidity, and air conditioning and desalination plants that run 24/7.

“They need a baseload profile and they don’t want to burn oil,” he said, because they want to sell that on the international market at a higher price. “Our technology is the only one that can deliver that.

The Saudi auction is just one of several auctions around the globe that the company plans to contest over the next year, as it builds up from its first project, the 110 MW Crescent Dunes facility which is due to completed in Nevada mid next year.

Morocco, South Africa, and Chile all have tenders coming up which are specifically geared to solar thermal. In South Africa, SolarReserve has three solar PV plants in construction with a total of 246 MW of capacity after successful bids in the first two bid rounds.

In Chile, the government is looking specifically for solar thermal with storage, and on a large scale, to cope with energy shortages, reliability issues and high prices for electricity.

Georgis says that should favour SolarReserve’s technology which has integrated energy storage in its solar power tower plants. Because Chile has excellent solar resource, with output from a plant up to 40 per cent more than in other areas such as the Southwest USA and Australia, its costs are already estimated at below $135/MWh.

China also has a near term target to install between 3,000 MW and 5,000 MW, although it is not clear how this target will be met.

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