How Smaller CSP Plants Could Revive the Technology’s Fortunes

GlobalData’s Power Technology writer Julian Turner comments: “Despite the CAPEX costs of building new CSP plants having fallen by almost 50% between 2013 and 2018, the scale and complexity of such projects remains prohibitively expensive compared with alternatives such as solar thermal towers with storage, solar photovoltaic (PV) or wind projects."

February 28, 2020. By News Bureau

With demand for clean, affordable energy spiking around the world, it may seem counterintuitive to suggest that scaling down concentrated solar power (CSP) operations could help revive the industry.

GlobalData’s Power Technology writer Julian Turner comments: “Despite the CAPEX costs of building new CSP plants having fallen by almost 50% between 2013 and 2018, the scale and complexity of such projects remains prohibitively expensive compared with alternatives such as solar thermal towers with storage, solar photovoltaic (PV) or wind projects.

“Although CSP continues to account for only a fraction of the green energy market, emphasizing plant storage value is now seen as key to attracting the investment required to kick-start the sector.

“This is a view that is shared by Luis Crespo, president of Protermosolar, Spain’s solar thermal electricity association.”

Crespo told GlobalData: “CSP is the most competitive renewable technology to replace PV after sunset in sunny countries – the main factor preventing its wide-scale deployment is simply the lack of long-term planning criteria.

“Currently, the main issues concerning CSP tower plants are scalability limits, lack of standardization and single critical path failures. Our research demonstrated that by splitting large surrounded heliostat fields into smaller fields with polar design, the efficiency can be increased close to 25%, and single storage and power blocks of larger commercial units can be used.

“In addition, field designs and receivers can be standardized, reliability can be increased and, at the end of the day, better-performing and cheaper CSP tower plants can be deployed.

“In the future, towers and troughs will share the market depending on the latitude of the site. In latitudes above 30º, I think that the multi-tower concept – but still of a large size, equivalent to around 30MW per unit – will be the preferred solution.”

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