A concentrating solar power installation with a six-hour storage capacity can add $35.80 per megawatt hour to the capacity and operational value of a utility, finds the United States Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
“We’ve known for a long time that CSP with storage adds significant value, however, we are now able to quantify this value in the language utilities understand,” said Mark Mehos, manager of NREL’s CSP program.
CSP with thermal energy storage capacity also allows the production of power using the sun even when it isn’t shining.
The additional value comes in as thermal storage allows CSP to displace more expensive natural gas-fired generation during peak loads and since it can flatten peak loads in the evenings.
However, the maximum extra value of $35.80 per megawatt would only come into play if the utility’s energy mix has a high concentration of renewables – about 34 percent.
If the amount of renewables in the utility’s mix is below 34 percent, the extra value would be lessened accordingly.
Aside from replacing natural gas fired generation, CSP with TES can help incorporate more solar power into a utility’s energy mix. CSP can provide power in the evenings when P.V. isn’t available, offsetting the need for utilities to build or use gas or coal-fired generators to meet demand.