If you are new to CSP, the sheer amount of information available on this industry might surprise you. However, you would also notice that some resources are much more valuable than others. To guide you through this information maze, we have selected five resources that could help you understand some of the main issues facing CSP.

The reports we have picked this time are all by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), but in future newsletters we will send you reports from other sources.

Realizing the full value of variable renewables

Wind and PV have attained cost competitiveness with fossil fuels and are set to capture a record share of the energy mix in many countries. But the intermittent nature of these technologies pose challenges to realizing their full value.

Simply put, Wind and PV produce energy when the wind blows and the sun shines. The problem is that peak production might happen when electricity demand is low, leading to overproduction. Faced with this scenario, most grid operators are forced to stem the flow of PV and Wind energy into the grid. This practice, which is technically called curtailment, is both wasteful and expensive. The incidence and costs of curtailment raise sharply as more intermittent renewables are connected to the grid.

What does this have to do with CSP? The answer is that CSP plus thermal storage is dispatchable, providing the means to manage the intermittency of renewables, such as PV and Wind, and realizing their full value.

Figure 5. Marginal solar curtailment due to overgeneration under increasing penetration of solar when adding PV or PV and CSP with TES

Source: NREL, 2016

NREL has published a report on the challenges of integrating high levels of PV into the grid, which you can access in full below:

Emerging Issues and Challenges with Integrating High Levels of Solar into the Electrical Generation and Transmission Systems (NREL, May 2016).


The Value of CSP plus Thermal Storage

The value of CSP plus thermal storage lies in offering stable and dispatchable energy output, allowing more intermittent renewables to be integrated into the grid. The higher the share of grid connected renewables, the higher the value of dispatchability according to a report by NREL (2014).

Figure 6. Marginal operational value of tower CSP-TES plants in the 40% RPS scenario with varying configurations

Source: NREL, 2014

A more recent report also argues that capital costs alone provide an inadequate metric for the value of Concentrated Solar Power. “Grid value – not only capital cost – is a necessary consideration when evaluating a portfolio of renewable energy technology options”.

These two reports, taken together, provide a clear summary on how CSP plus thermal storage provides value to the grid and how to measure this value. Follow the links below to access the reports:

Estimating the Value of Utility-Scale Solar Technologies in California Under a 40% Renewable Portfolio Standard (J. Jorgenson, P. Denholm, and M. Mehos. NREL, 2014).

Advancing Concentrating Solar Power Technology, Performance, and Dispatchability (Mehos et al. NREL and Sandia National Laboratories, 2016).


CSP Projects Worldwide

There are more than 300 CSP projects worldwide across more than 20 countries. If you would like to learn more about one of these specific projects or get a bird’s eye view of the CSP pipeline, you should access NREL’s Concentrated Solar Power Database. This resource is completely free of charge and maintained by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a US-based R&D institution which publishes much useful research on CSP.

Alternatively, you could access information on CSP projects through the CSP Today Global Tracker by New Energy Update. You can access a CSP project map for free, although the more detailed project information is behind a paywall.