Guest article by Jack Ahearne of CSP Today.
The modern age of concentrating solar power (CSP) can arguably be traced back to the 354MW Solar Energy Generating Systems (SEGS) in the Mojave desert, which now make up the oldest operating plant in the world, as well as one of the largest. However, recent developments in the industry will see SEGS eclipsed by five projects that are scheduled to come online in 2013-14, with a combined total of 1.3GW.
The five plants in question are Abengoa’s Solana and Mojave projects, BrightSource Energy’s Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System and finally the Crescent Dunes and Genesis plants being developed by SolarReserve and NextEra Energy Resources, respectively.
Recent commentary on the industry agrees that this increase in operating capacity, as well as 1.5GW of projects in planning in the US, demonstrates the strong support for CSP in this region. And there are a number of reasons why it makes sense for the US to pursue leadership in CSP development for years to come. Firstly, the US has ample high irradiation suitable for CSP development, particularly in California, Arizona and Nevada.
Secondly, there are significant economic benefits. The prime materials for CSP plant construction are readily available in the US, in addition to projects generating local employment, particularly during the construction phase of a plant. But most importantly there are a number of reasons why utilities, CSP’s ultimate customers, and grid operators might welcome the technology.
As utilities are increasingly being required to introduce renewable portfolio standards, many of the options available, such as wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) plants, are challenging because of their output variability. Therefore as PV and wind integration increases, the thermal energy storage capability of CSP becomes a significant feature that will drive projects forward for years to come.
CSP with storage can modify ramp rates, keeping them more in line with grid requirements, because plant operators have the flexibility to stop putting solar energy into the grid at a given time, or if needed, put more power into the grid. To explain the benefits that CSP and thermal energy storage can offer grid operators and utilities, CSP Today has released a free guide to CSP’s role in the US energy mix.
This guide provides data, information and interviews on how CSP and its storage technology can help utilities and grid operators overcome PV and wind intermittency, and gives an introduction to the current thermal energy storage technologies operating in plants. Read it now.