Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) technology providers need to improve system efficiency and reduce costs to compete with flat-panel PV.

Advanced components and thermal energy storage can bring CSP back to the forefront of the solar industry for utility-scale, stand-alone power applications.

The opening of the Ivanpah concentrating solar power (CSP) plant has brought renewed interest in the technology, which produces electricity by focusing the sun’s rays to produce intense heat.

However, the crash of photovoltaic (PV) module prices will cause the CSP market to decline from 2.45GW in 2013 to 2.0GW in 2018. Nonetheless, the technology has the potential to bounce back and beat multicrystalline silicon (mc-Si) in levelized cost of electricity (LCOE), according to the Lux Research  “Turning Up the Heat on Advanced Concentrating Solar Components.”

Lux Research analysts evaluated CSP technologies and economics in order to discover optimal models. Among their findings:

Thermal energy storage (TES) are among the top targets for cost reduction. Today’s CSP system costs are 37% to 60% higher than mc-Si without TES – and 300% to 600% higher with 14 hours of TES. Storage is among the largest portions of the system cost stack, and will be a primary target for advanced system components.

Advanced power towers will win for large projects. Supercritical steam systems are the most likely to come to fruition by 2020. The next step for power towers will likely be toward Air Brayton and supercritical CO2 systems that can beat mc-Si’s LCOE by 31% and 33%, respectively.

Fresnel reflector systems are best for small projects. Linear Fresnel reflectors with molten salt heat transfer fluid can undercut mc-Si’s LCOE by 6% and have the most potential to dominate smaller CSP projects and alternative applications like integrated solar combined cycle (ISCC), industrial heat, enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and waterpurification applications.