Concentrating solar in crisis – energy storage to the rescue?

The outlook for concentrating solar power (CSP) is a mixed one, according to Earthtechling. The technology that uses mirrors to focus sunlight to create heat, which can then be utilize to produce electricity, is chalking up some successes, with big projects in the US and South Africa.

On the other hand, BrightSource Energy is not having the success it hoped for, with only two projects green-lit out of a possible five. Meanwhile, Siemens has turned its back on the sector entirely. The reason? The industry cannot compete with the plummeting price of photovoltaic (PV) technology.

But there may be some good news on the horizon, according to the CSP industry itself – and that is energy storage. “A robust body of research is available and demonstrates that CSP with storage provides additional economic and reliability value to utilities and grid operators when compared to other renewable investments,” Udi Helman, director of economic and pricing analysis for BrightSource Energy, said in a CSPA release.

The NREL study which Helman cites, reports that: “CSP with a six-hour storage capacity can lower peak net loads when the sun isn’t shining, enough to add $35.80 per megawatt hour to the capacity and operational value of the utility, compared to photovoltaic (PV) solar power alone, and even higher extra value when compared to CSP without storage.”

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