World’s largest solar power plants with thermal storage to be built in Arizona

What’s the easiest way to deal with the intermittency of many renewable sources of energy?  Cheap storage.  And what form of storage is much cheaper and has a much higher round-trip efficiency than electric storage? Thermal storage.

That’s a key reason concentrated solar-thermal power (CSP) is a core climate solution.  It has the most potential of any zero-carbon electricity since it can most easily be integrated with thermal storage — technology that is available today, as made clear by this just announced 200-MW plant Albiasa Solar of Spain will build in Arizona:

Albiasa officials said they planned to use molten salt to store heat from the plant so it can keep generating power after sunset.

That also is the plan for Solana Generating Station, a 280-megawatt solar-thermal plant planned for Gila Bend by Abengoa Solar Inc. of Spain.

APS announced that it would buy the energy from that power plant once it is running in 2011. Last year, officials said they were struggling to get financing for the project, but APS spokesman Steven Gotfried said Friday the plans were moving forward.

The ability to provide power reliably throughout the day and evening in key locations around the world (including China and India) is why CSP delivers 3 of the 12 – 14 wedges needed for “the full global warming solution.”

CSP is one of many reasons why FERC chair Wellinghoff said “We may not need any [new coal or nuclear plants], ever.” After being neglected for nearly 2 decades, CSP is finally coming of age with major new deals around the world and here at home (see “Biggest CA utility contracts for world’s biggest solar power deal “” 1300 MW solar thermal” and “World’s second* largest solar plant to be built in Florida“).

According to Wikipedia, no other larger plants are under construction “” see to “List of solar thermal power station” and “List of photovoltaic power stations.” The good news is that there are many much larger planned solar plants “” but these two Arizona plants, if built on schedule, look to set the pace for CSP with thermal storage.

Yes, at $1 billion, this 200 MW plant is on the pricey side — though not as staggeringly pricey as new nuclear power” (and yes, I know, nuclear has double the capacity factor, but then again, nuclear needs fuel which CSP doesn’t, and nuclear needs a place for its waste, which CSP doesn’t, and nuclear has obvious production bottlenecks and takes forever to build safely, which CSP doesn’t).

Moreover, unlike nuclear, the world hasn’t really built many CSP plants until very recently, so costs are projected to drop steadily down the experience curve for new technology in the coming decade thanks to economies of scale and technology learning.   As the 2006 report “Economic, Energy, and Environmental Benefits of Concentrating Solar Power in California,” for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, by Black & Veatch concluded:

A comparison of the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) revealed that the LCOE of $148 per MWh [14.8 c/kwh] for the first CSP plants installed in 2009 is competitive with the simple cycle combustion turbine at an LCOE of $168 per MWh, assuming that the temporary 30 percent Investment Tax Credit is extended.

The ITC was extended 8 years in the bailout bill.  And this analysis was really aimed at 2015 costs:

CSP plants installed in 2015 are projected to exhibit a delivered LCOE of $115/MWh, compared with $168/MWh for the simple cycle combustion turbine and $104/MWh for combined cycle plants. At a natural gas price of about $8 per MMBtu, the LCOE of CSP and the combined cycle plants at 40 percent capacity factor are equal.

And that is without a carbon price.

Look out nukes and dirty coal, the future is here!

46 Responses to World’s largest solar power plants with thermal storage to be built in Arizona

  1. paulm says:

    This is exciting stuff!

    I wonder if this technology be scaled down to a community, house or personal level effectively?

  2. GFW says:

    Off the cuff, I doubt CSP scales *down* well. (Up, great!). One obvious point is that the thermal storage losses should scale as the inverse cube root of the storage volume. In other words if a tank is scaled up to 8 times the previous volume, it will only have 4 times the surface area, so the per-volume heat loss should be about half. I suspect steam condensers have large scale efficiencies (Although there, a small installation gives you the possibility of steam heating – like co-generation. OTOH, the sorts of places where CSP is most effective aren’t very cold.) I don’t know how steam turbines scale, but again, odds are bigger is better.

  3. GFW says:

    Hmm, for a single house in a heat-needed climate, let’s forget electrical generation entirely, tossing the whole steam cycle … heat some working fluid as CSP does, but simply exchange that into the forced air heat system the same way that a heat pump would. Call it concentrated solar heating (CSH). If you could have efficient enough storage to last a couple of cloudy days, that would be great, but you’d probably need some backup too.

  4. Will Greene says:

    I’m wondering what makes CSP as expensive as it is? You would think a system of mirrors, tubes, and turbines would not be almost as costly as a nuclear plant.

  5. Modesty says:

    What are the pros and cons of towers vs. troughs?

  6. Neil Howes says:

    Costs cannot be compared to nuclear because solar is delivering power at peak demand, not during the night when there is surplus coal and nuclear. Thus the comparison with NG peak which is very favorable, even now with low NG prices. It’s also better than wind when considering matching peak demand.
    The link didn’t indicate the type of thermal storage, or how long, or why this is going ahead when other projects were canceled.

  7. paulm says:

    Modesty, were you thinking of sticking turbines on the towers?

  8. Pierre Bull says:

    Silly semantics that I’m nitpicking with, but I suggest using the term “variable output” rather than “intermittency” to describe these renewable technologies. Despite the fact that output does fluctuate for CSP, system operators can know with excellent precision the weather, and therefore output predictions, as much as a day in advance.

    Also, you are correct to compare the LCOE to natgas combine cycle turbine cost, which sets the marginal clearing price during summer peak coincident demand for electricity on the grid. It’s not a coincidence that CSP will have excellent output during periods of summer peak demand.

  9. cougar_w says:

    Q: What’s the easiest way to deal with the intermittency of many renewable sources of energy?
    A: Adjust your expectations.

    Seriously. Every time I hear this canard trotted out I want to shake someone. Yeah, the sun is available only half the day at best, and in some latitudes more than others.

    zOMG! Life is so unfair! I weep now.

    There will be no Business As Usual. There is no technical fix, that train already left the station. Get over it. We had a nice run for about 200 years, discovered some cool things, maybe improved the human condition a bit in subtle ways, f*cked up the planet, killed countless lives via pollution and mechanized warfare, invented corporations and litigation, and now we go back to human-scale living. Thank the gods for that. Run, do not walk, into a humane future. Wake with the sun, do your “thing” whatever it is near where you live, cook small meals from your garden over a simple fire (or in a solar cooker), walk and bike everywhere, and then go to bed with the setting sun and have a nice, long sleep. Wake. Repeat. At some point start a family. Teach your children to live within the limits of nature and their own bodies. They happy now. They happy forever. No more cry.

    Is that really so hard to grasp? Where is the down-side here?

    Oh yeah, I forgot. PROGRESS! Economic growth! … PROFIT! Master of the Universe!! And making people into clock-driven machines who have babies so they can get jobs of their own and buy company stocks. So many useful people! Look at all the useful things they do for me! I can get rich on that kind of thing, uh huh. And Ponzi schemes for everyone else. And all that mindless consumption of cheap cr*p from Chinese factories, gotta have that. And a breathtaking array of pharmaceuticals for every mood you want in your busy day, and to make your children perfect and timely with their emotions. And unaffordable health care. Check and check. And living for your eventual retirement like a Lord of England… oh wait only some of us get that. Right. But everyone gets the wake-run-late-stress-heartfailure-but-I’m-insured thing and the compensating knowledge that you were useful until death did you part. So that’s good. Gotta love all that democratic equality for the lower classes.

    Nightmare nearly over. We will awake. Waiting for it… Waiting for it…


  10. Bill Woods says:

    “Yes, at $1 billion, this 200 MW plant is on the pricey side — though not as staggeringly pricey as new nuclear power …”

    Actually, at $13/W(average), it’s higher than Severance’s nuclear figure.

    “A comparison of the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) revealed that the LCOE of $148 per MWh [14.8 c/kwh] for the first CSP plants installed in 2009 is competitive …, assuming that the temporary 30 percent Investment Tax Credit is extended.
    The ITC was extended 8 years in the bailout bill. …”

    Yeah, a sufficiently-large subsidy can make anything appear cost-effective,

    “I’m wondering what makes CSP as expensive as it is? You would think a system of mirrors, tubes, and turbines would not be almost as costly as a nuclear plant.”

    It needs a *lot* of mirrors, etc. — about 400 acres’ worth, spread over a couple of square miles.

  11. David B. Benson says:

    Bill Woods — Huh? Squaree mile is 640 acres. Why so much unused space?

  12. Will Greene says:

    So it’s the mirrors that account for the high cost? Interesting, looks like someone needs to invent cheap mirrors. We need CSP, we need it now, and we need it big. We also need to worry about the aesthetics and desert ecosystems effects later…..the scorpions will survive. Someone tell that to Diane Feinstein!

  13. Bill Woods says:

    “Is that really so hard to grasp? Where is the down-side here?”

    Poverty sucks.

    Or more classically, ‘life in a state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.’

  14. Bill Woods says:

    “Bill Woods — Huh? Square mile is 640 acres. Why so much unused space?”

    I don’t vouch for the 400 figure, but you’ve got to spread the mirrors out or they’ll be shading each other except for a couple of hours a day.

  15. Mark Shapiro says:

    Mirror cost is key, as Bill Woods said. That’s why I like Ausra (long, flat mirrors and a fresnel lens) and eSolar (lots of little flat mirrors and a tower). Both use flat mirrors, which are cheaper.

    And of course the storage costs a lot, too. Now to find some vacant desert land with nearby caverns that could be adapted for storage . . .

    Or, build it next to a factory that needs both heat and electricity. Something like smelting or glass-making.

  16. cougar_w says:

    MarkB: Looks like the homeowner doesn’t own the collectors, and doesn’t get the energy for free, and pays to have them installed. Then they pay by the month for power from their own roof, but the rate is “set” for 18 years. In a way it’s a rip-off; the homeowner gives away use of their roof to a corporation, and gets to pay for the opportunity. Not sure what the savings are but we can imagine SunRun is getting the significantly better part of the deal. Why do we know this? Because they are a corporation, of course.

    IANAL, but I wonder what happens when SunRun goes bankrupt? Because you just KNOW they will. Things like that get settled in BK court, and no you are not invited, so the terms can become anything at all. Does a creditor repossess the collectors off your roof in the middle of the night, with the Sheriff standing by to arrest you if you get tense about it? Do you have to pay the creditors market rates for the collectors in cash, right now, or they tear them out and leave you to pay for a new roof? If SunRun are bought by GougeYou Electric do the new owners of your roof get to renegotiate the “set” rate you pay? If they can get your neighbor to pay more for that electricity than you are willing to pay, can they dump YOU back on the expensive grid and sell YOUR solar electric to someone else?

    Plenty of opportunity for huge laughs in this one. Ought to be fun to see what happens.

  17. Modesty says:

    paulm…yes…sorry if that was not clear… (?)…everything else being equal, what are the salient differences between trough concentration and tower concentration?

    Ex. of tower CSP:

  18. Theodore says:

    We think we know the price of renewable energy. We don’t. In order to know what it really is, we would need a second planet on which we could do an experiment. Suppose that on this second planet we had made a law in 1960 that no carbon fuel or nuclear power plants could be built. This would leave only renewable energy as available options for new construction. After 40 years of implementation on a large scale, the technology and the price would have become stable. Then in the year 2000, suppose we made a new law that permitted carbon fuel and nuclear power. Would these forms of electric power be able to compete with renewables like the now deeply entrenched solar power industry? I believe there is some chance that coal is cheaper than solar only because it became entrenched first. Can any of you prove me wrong?

  19. paulm says:

    Joe what are the subsidies of the various energy industries?

  20. Jim Eaton says:

    One of the problems with concentrated solar energy facilities located in the desert is that they require lots of water. And they are located in the desert, which is a desert because? A lack of water. Tapping ground water in the desert to meet the needs of CSP requires mining of a limited ground water resource. Not a long term solution.

  21. solar power says:

    Will you explain me pros and cons of solar power in your next blog posting.

  22. russ says:

    Jim Eaton – Lots of water if cooling towers are used – much less if other methods are employed.

    Solar will always have a higher upfront cost because you are paying for the free sunshine which comes over the next 20 years. Not a bad thing!

    Theodore – you are probably correct.

    Modesty – One big difference is the temperature achievable – with the concentrator & tower it can be very much higher.

    One big cost of solar at present is companies taking advantage of opportunity and charging the maximum.

    Cougar W – Maybe you should start picking your cave – less competition now than later according to you.

    Will Greene – Right On! Feinstein is a very foolish senator catering to her turtles (I guess that is tortoise) – same with Ted Kennedy

    Neil Howes – As I understand, storage is still the big bottleneck and will be until new phase change materials are developed to care for it. The oft proposed pumping of water, batteries etc are smoke in year 2009.

    I very much believe in commercial solar but there are problems today and I am confident they will be solved. Probably they will be solved in an engineering company office and not on a green site though.

    Arontis of Sweden and another company Helio Therm make small trough concentrators for home/small business use. The Arontis (solar 8) unit generates power and hot water for uses such as heating. I believe Helio Therm is for hot water only.

  23. Bill Woods: you are flogging the usual misinformation about nuclear costs, though I’ll assume you’re doing so innocently, as so many people do. The industry’s own construction cost figures, combined with conventional capital recovery charge assumptions, fuel costs, non-fuel O&M costs, insurance, property taxes, decommissioning accruals and waste storage costs, produce a LCOE that is at least $0.2/kWh. That’s based on industry figures, not Greenpeace figures. Why do people keep repeating much lower numbers? Can you say “subsidies”? As you say, a sufficiently large subsidy can make anything appear cost effective.

    cougar_w and others debating the intermittency issue: you seem to have missed the point (Joe’s as well as Jon Wellinghof’s) that the beauty of CSP with thermal storage is that it mitigates the problem that highly intermittent sources like onshore wind creates for grid stability. It’s firm, dispatchable renewable power generation. Those like cougar_w who believe that it is either not really as big a problem as the energy industry says it is, or believe that we should simply shift our lifestyles to deal with it, have no doubt the best of intentions, but the simple fact is that it IS a very big problem, and while I would love to believe that the average person would “suck it up” and make accommodations for the sake of future generations, I just don’t see that happening, particularly if there are acceptable alternatives (and onshore wind isn’t “variable”, nor does “intermittent” even really capture it – it’s stochastic, and the accuracy of day-ahead wind forecasting is miles away from where it would need to be to make a serious dent in the problem). CSP is one of those acceptable alternatives. That’s why it’s a core climate solution.

    Cost and water consumption: water consumption is always raised as an objection, but as russ points out, dry cooling technologies are a long-established way of dealing with that, particularly solutions such as the Heller System that I employed on a 2,400MW gas-fired plant in Turkey; it’s very efficient but hasn’t been widely used in the US because it uses natural-draft hyperbolic cooling towers, which have public acceptance issues in populated areas. In the desert that may be less of an issue. And with storage costs more up front because you overbuild the solar collector field relative to the maximum capacity of the steam turbine, storing the excess energy to firm up the output over the day and extend operations through the evening peak or beyond. But the benefits to LCOE more than offset the increase in capital costs.

    MarkB: remember that solar PV installed on a customer’s premises is competing with the delivered retail price of electricity (which in Massachusetts can be as high as 20 cents/kWh), as long as it’s simply displacing grid-supplied power rather than selling net output to the grid. And this outfit may be competing with peak-period time-of-use prices, which are even higher. CSP is competing with other wholesale production sources, which reflect only the all-in production costs of the power and none of the transmission and distribution system costs built into retail rates. That’s nice for companies selling PV panels, since they can sell more panels, but it does nothing to address the challenge of removing coal-fired power plants from the system, since it only deals with the customer’s calculation of whether the levelized cost of the limited amount of intermittent supply the PV panels will produce is cheaper than the alternative. CSP addresses the heart of the problem – how do we address the challenge of maintaining the integrity of power supply for an industrialized economy using renewable resources?

  24. Martin says:

    GFW, my parents live in a heavily forested area of Canada where many homeowners have installed outdoor wood furnaces that heat a liquid that is piped into an exchanger fitted to their old forced air heating system. I saw your comment and wondered if it would be cost effective to retro-fit these units with a solar collector.

    Solar collection has safety issues that photo-voltaic panels don’t.

  25. Rockfish says:

    Is there a website anywhere that tracks which of these projects that are “announced” with so much fanfare are actually under construction?

    I have read at least 100 breathless press releases over the last 18 months, each of which claims to be building the largest “fill-in-the-blank renewable energy” project in “fill-in-the-location”, only to read 6 weeks later a meek little news blurb about it being canceled.
    I understand that these announcements are usually made unrealistically early, following some nebulous agreement in principal or whatever. The developers then discover they can get financed, cant get permitted, cant pass their EIS, etc.

    Yet the blogs and commentariat waste infinite effort and, yes, energy, getting themselves in a lather over an industry that produces more vaporware in a week than Silicon Valley has in 25 years.

    Arguing over which CSP technology is better is like arguing over tires for your hydrogen car. The projects, with one or 2 very small scale exceptions worldwide, don’t exist and probably never will. Why are we wasting our breath?

    I’ll be happy to shut up if someone can show me photographs of concrete, steel and cable going in on the site of 3 CSP projects anywhere in America.

  26. russ says:

    Right Michael!

    Right Rockfish!

    The author of most green blogs has read something on another green blog and writes his own story about it – flogging the original story reported by some mainstream news outlet for all it is worth with additions, deletions or emphasis used as is best for the bloggers site.

    Very few blog authors have shown that they have any idea of technology or business! They are just greenies exciting each other to feel good and to be able to say they are doing something wonderful – saving the world!

    As relates to projects:

    For those that don’t know a LOI (letter of intent) only has value to the salesman – maybe his boss won’t sack him because just maybe there is something down the road.

    MOU’s (memorandum of understanding has basically the same purpose and same value. With a LOI or MOU and a few bucks you can get a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

    Companies chase many projects for years hoping to get one of them in time to stay open. I would guess that maybe 90% of ‘real projects’ (much farther along than MOU’s & LOI’s) die before the proposed customer signs a contract.

  27. Bill Woods says:

    “Bill Woods: you are flogging the usual misinformation about nuclear costs, …”

    You obviously didn’t follow the original link! What’s your opinion of that estimate?

    “Hmm, nuclear power plants, at an average output of 1.1GW per plant, seem to be about 5x capacity, not double as stated…”
    Five times the capacity, but about twice the ‘capacity factor’, i.e. the power produced as a fraction of the maximum possible.
    A typical nuke has a capacity factor of ~90%, so a 1.1 GW plant produces an average of 1 GW.
    This solar plant is projected to produce 665,000 MW-hr per year, or an average of 76 MW, giving it a capacity factor of 76/200 = 38%.

  28. Bill Woods: I followed “the original link” in your 11:25 am post and it took me to Joe’s blog on the Severance report, which put the LCOE for new nuclear at 25-30 cents/kWh, so I’m not sure what your point is. The Severance numbers reflect a realistic assessment of the nuclear industry’s likely chances of bring plants in on time and under budget – why should they start now, after failing to do so the first couple of hundred times they tried it? – while my number of 20 cents gave the industry more of the benefit of the doubt. CSP with 3-5 hours of thermal storage is today about 15 cents/kWh at a good site, and with experience and longer storage capabilities that number will come down considerably. That’s easily less than new nuclear, and the promise of more economic nuclear energy from the 3rd generation of nuke technology has now proven to be undeliverable, based on Areva’s actual experience at Olkiluoto and the exploding cost estimates encountered by FP&L, BG&E and others.

  29. Bill Woods says:

    Not exactly “the usual misinformation about nuclear costs”, is it? And yet this CSP project is even more expensive: $1 billion / 200 MW / 0.38 = $13/W(average). What does that work out to in ¢/kWh?

    Who’s selling CSP for 15¢/kWh?

    Last I heard, the cost of Olkiluoto was up to €4.5 billion, or about $4/W.

  30. Michael Hogan and Jim Eaton — Thanks for your instructive contributions to this important issue. CSP certainly has promise, provided the steam condensing does not waste a lot of precious desert water.

    Water waste at thermal power plants (including nuclear and coal) is a major issue that needs to be dealt with in tandem with the CO2 issue. Air cooling of a large plant in the desert during the day might not be so easy, even with a forced draft over fins. Computer chip cooling has run into the limits of air cooling, which basically has a wimpy heat flux due to the sparse molecules in air. Wet cooling has a much better heat flux, especially with forced convection boiling, but the drawback is that evaporative cooling of the cooling water for heat rejection loses precious pure water into the desert air. Conditioning hard desert water for use in a shell-and-tube steam condenser is also a challenge.

    Maybe an organic Rankine cycle, instead of steam, would work better. An organic working fluid, having a high molecular weight and a low boiling point, might be able to harvest low temperature heat sources for mass flow and also avoid the water waste in the working fluid condenser. For example see

  31. Bill Woods: Not sure where you got the annual production figure you used to come up with the 38% capacity factor (I was under the impression that this plant would incorporate some amount of storage, which would imply a higher capacity factor), but assuming you’re right, and using a 13% capital recovery charge rate on the $1 billion plant cost, the calculation is ($1 billion x 0.13)/(665,760,000 kWh), which gives you something below $0.20/kWh. We’re working with rough figures here, so that could obviously be wrong, but I am aware that the contracts between these projects and the buyers are running in the mid-teens in cents per kWh. Any way you cut it, that’s less than the LCOE for new nuclear, and studies by NREL and the German government’s DLR, among other reputable technical organizations, put the economics below $0.10/kWh within the next five years or so.

  32. And Bill Woods, what the final cost of Olkiluoto 3 will be is difficult to say, but it will certainly be well above €4.5 billion. That was the contractor’s estimate on October of last year, at least 3.5 years before they forecast completion. On top of that, TVO (the buyer) is seeking €2.4 billion in damages from Areva for the project’s delayed completion, which if they get it would bring the cost to the contractor to nearly €7 billion. The project is now projected by Areva to come in over three years behind schedule, in 2012, and again, that’s now. A lot can happen in the next three years, and they’ve proven that if it can happen, it will. But assuming they’re right, the project’s interest during construction would go from about €500 million to about €3 billion. That would account for TVO’s €2.4 billion claim, which is an attempt to recover their expected financing costs, so whether or not they recover them from Areva, they’re a real cost to the consumer. So you tell me what the final tab will be – €7.5 billion? €10 billion? More? One thing’s for sure – it’s a disaster, and it was the most closely watched new construction project the nuclear industry has undertaken in decades.

  33. Wilmot: Using organic materials as a working fluid in something of the scale we’re talking about may be more trouble than it’s worth. The Heller Cycle I mentioned above, which is proven, is a direct contact jet condenser system, and it is surprisingly efficient even in a desert environment because it uses very little auxiliary power (due to the natural draft cooling towers). You can add a small amount of forced draft capability for the hottest days, which increases aux power consumption but might be justified by the pick-up in cooling efficiency. See the following link:ált_Balogh.pdf

  34. Bill Woods says:

    “Once the plant is fully operational, Tippett said it should produce at least 665,000 megawatt-hours of electricity annually;…
    Tippett said the plant will draw its water from local groundwater sources, and should require only a fraction of what a similarly sized farm would use.”
    It does use storage; how could a solar plant get as high as 38% without?

    Why isn’t the comparable figure for Olkiluoto
    (€4.5 billion × $1.3/€ × 0.13) / (1.6e6 kW × 8766 hr × 0.9) ~= 6¢/kWh?

  35. Andy Gunther says:

    The CSP solution offered by Bright Source Energy, the folks who signed the 1,300 MW contract with Southern California Edison, is air cooled. This greatly reduces water demand.

  36. David B. Benson says:

    Theodore — I fear not. Burning fossil coal is fundamentally just like burning charcoal; easy to do. :-(

  37. The comparable figure for Olkiluoto is conservatively (€7 billion x $1.3/€ x 0.13) / (1,600,000 x 8760 x 0.85) = $0.10 / kWh. Then you have to add fuel, fixed and non-fuel variable costs, insurance, property taxes, decommissioning accruals, waste disposal costs etc. Severance of course puts the capital cost at around $10,000/kW, which would drive the result much higher.

  38. Michael Hogan — The House just passed H.R. 1145, which provides for water research and a water inventory. The inventory and research may settle the dispute between environmentalists and CSP proponents.

    I’m glad to hear that dry cooling during peak demand in the desert will be satisfactory. Then what is so threatening to the wildlife in the Mojave?

  39. Bill Woods says:

    Okay, so those take the cost up to the mid-teens. Which is still less than your “something below $0.20/kWh” for this solar plant. And, looking at the bright side, it leaves room for a steep learning curve. Presumably by the time they build the Maryland EPR, they’ll have figured out not to screw up the foundation.

    The BrightSource plant is a tower, which operates at a higher temperature than a trough system, making dry cooling practical.

  40. Actually, they take the cost up to at least 18 cents/kWh, and that’s assuming my number is closer to the truth than Severance’s number. If he’s closer to the right number (and if I’m honest I think he is), then new nuclear is in the low 20s cents/kWh at least. As for whether or not “they” figure out how not to screw anything up, you could always be right, but the fifty-plus year history of the industry is not on your side. There are sound reasons why that is, but it is a longer story than would be appropriate for a blog posting. The scope for cost reductions in CSP is much more evident. We could haggle for a long time over the details, but the key point is that there is simply no way to make a compelling argument that nuclear (and for that matter, coal-with-CCS) is an indispensible part of an economic and reliable power system. That’s the line that the coal and nuclear industries are pushing (as evidenced by the inane op/ed piece in the Washington Post today from James Schlessinger and Robert Hirsch), and it’s pure rubbish.

  41. Wilmot,

    I don’t know what is so threatening to wildlife in the Mojave. I am not prepared to reflexively defend specific projects, as I am not privy to the site specifics. It is my understanding that there is more than adequate acreage of disturbed desert habitat to host all of the CSP we’d need for a very long time without disturbing any critical habitat. If developers have proposed projects in areas that are suboptimal from a biodiversity perspective, simply because it’s more profitable to put it there, then they should be required to re-locate their projects. And if it is the right answer to require dry cooling as BACT, then so be it. Neither of those restrictions would undermine the validity of large-scale CSP as a core climate solution.

  42. David B. Benson says:

    ” Dishing out power with a solar engine”:

    Your own backyard solar powered Sterling engine. Mentions the bigger ones being set up in the Mojave Desert.

  43. Theodore says:

    reply to Jim Eaton – I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that an air-cooled CSP plant is typically 6% less efficient than the water-cooled version. It is not a fatal problem.

  44. scott w says:

    great article. would you please email me regarding my featuring of this article on my site, ?
    thanks, and great work…csp is about to get huge!

    scott w

  45. aac says:

    Any thoughts on parabolic trough technology vs towers or other CSP technologies? I am planning a pilot/ prototype in India using parabolic trough technology, and am aware of the higher costs. I also like Ausra and eSolar because of the low cost mirrors/ fresnel lenses approach (which makes a lot of sense for a country like India), but am not sure about the efficiency comparisons. What are the opinions on which technology may evolve faster (low cost is very important) – parabolic trough or the heliostat-mirrors?