Concentrated Solar Power Gets Financial Boost

The US Department of Energy is ploughing US$10 million into six new research and development projects.
Published: Mon 09 Jun 2014

The US Department of Energy (DoE) is investing in innovative concentrated solar power (CSP) technologies.

Developing thermo-chemical storage systems

The projects will develop thermo-chemical energy storage systems to enable more efficient storage of solar energy while using less storage material, cutting the cost for utility-scale concentrating solar power electricity generation, and enhancing the ability to provide reliable power when the sun isn't shining.

Concentrated solar power technologies use mirrors to focus and concentrate sunlight onto a receiver from which a heat transfer fluid carries the intense thermal energy to a power block to generate electricity.

The research and development projects will explore novel thermo-chemical energy storage systems, which could store the sun's energy at high densities and temperatures in the form of chemical bonds. The chemical compounds used to store the chemical energy are later broken down to release energy when needed.

Some of the most innovative concentrated solar power plants were connected to the United States electricity grid in 2013 -- five of which are expected to be fully operational by the end of 2014, including one of the largest concentrated solar power plants in the world and a first-of-its-kind commercial scale energy storage technology.

A new report from the Department of Energy highlights these five most innovative concentrated solar power plants in the world, including Crescent Dunes in Tonopah, Nevada; Genesis in Blythe, California; Ivanpah in Dry Lake, California; Mojave near Barstow, California; and Solana near Gila Bend, Arizona

When completed, these projects will provide a combined 1.26 GW of electricity, nearly quadrupling the pre-existing concentrated solar power capacity in the US.

The market is growing

The concentrated solar power market totaled $1.3 billion in 2013 and is anticipated to reach US$53.7 billion by 2020, according to a new analysis by WinterGreen Research.

The reason for this is because the systems can be built at utility scale and are able to provide around the clock solar power.

Concentrated solar power is one of several preferred methods of solar electricity production. In most countries it has achieved ‘grid-parity’ when considering return on investment over a 35 year period.

There is a move in the solar industry to achieve grid-parity. Once this is secure, the solar market can expect to grow quickly, achieving penetration growth calculations that exceed any growth rate per se. A step-change in system costs is being achieved and this will see the market take off.

Further reading
The Department of Energy-2014:The Year of Concentrating Solar Power [pdf]