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Potential for concentrating solar power to provide baseload and dispatchable power

Abstract

Previous studies have demonstrated the possibility of maintaining a reliable electric power system with high shares of renewables, but only assuming the deployment of specific technologies in precise ratios, careful demand-side management, or grid-scale storage technologies1,2. Any scalable renewable technology that could provide either baseload or dispatchable power would allow greater flexibility in planning a balanced system, and therefore would be especially valuable. Many analysts have suggested that concentrating solar power (CSP) could do just that3,4,5,6,7,8. Here we systematically test this proposition for the first time. We simulate the operation of CSP plant networks incorporating thermal storage in four world regions where CSP is already being deployed, and optimize their siting, operation and sizing to satisfy a set of realistic demand scenarios. In all four regions, we show that with an optimally designed and operated system, it is possible to guarantee up to half of peak capacity before CSP plant costs substantially increase.

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Figure 1: Total output for the year 2005 from 100 plants spread across locations in the Mediterranean basin.
Figure 2: Costs of guaranteeing to meet various fractions of the load in the three load profiles by CSP plants, for the worst (costliest) year out of the four simulated in the Mediterranean basin.
Figure 3: Costs of guaranteeing to meet various fractions of the load for fully optimized plants (design, location and operation) in the four regions, for the worst (costliest) year out of the four simulated years.

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Acknowledgements

Funding for this work was provided by the Grantham Institute for Climate Change, the European Institute of Innovation and Technology via its Climate-KIC program, and derived from the European Research Council, grant number 313533.

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Authors

Contributions

S.P., J.L. and A.P. designed the study and drafted the manuscript. S.P. implemented the models and performed all analyses. P.G. contributed the CSP plant model and solar resource data. K.D. performed the site selection and obtained demand data. F.W. contributed to model development and implementation. All authors contributed to editing and discussing the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Stefan Pfenninger.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Pfenninger, S., Gauché, P., Lilliestam, J. et al. Potential for concentrating solar power to provide baseload and dispatchable power. Nature Clim Change 4, 689–692 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2276

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