Concentrated solar thermal aka solar baseload has definitely come of age in the United States.
Just a few weeks ago, I posted “World’s largest solar power plants with thermal storage to be built in Arizona” about a 200-MW plant and a 280-MW plant planned for AZ. But “The technology that will save humanity” is on the fast track thank to the stimulus: “Mohave Sun Power, LLC has announced plans to build a 340-megawatt concentrating solar project.”
CSP plants are cropping up all over. Earth2tech reports, “11 Solar Thermal Companies Powering Up“:
There are 2.5GW of solar thermal projects with announced power purchase agreements in California and Arizona slated for construction in the next few years.
UPDATE: In its new study Global Concentrated Solar Power Markets and Strategies 2009-2020, Emerging Energy Research finds that “the CSP industry is scaling rapidly with 1.2 GW under construction as of April 2009 and another 13.9 GW announced globally through 2014 … with 8.5 GW in the pipeline and scheduled for installation by 2014.” Here is their remarkable figure showing the “global take-off” of CSP:
Global CSP pipeline by country, 1985-2014.
The easiest way to deal with the intermittency of the sun is cheap storage — and thermal storage is much cheaper and has a much higher round-trip efficiency than electric storage. 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.”
Not all of the 2.5 GW of CSP being built in CA and AZ have storage, but the latest and biggest plants do:
Sunlight will be collected at the Mohave Sun Power and Albiasa facilities using mirrored troughs and focused on a tube of oil running through the center of the troughs. The oil will be transported back to a central facility where it will be used to generate steam. Some of the energy will be stored in molten salt tanks until it is needed during peak energy times.
What about water consumption?
… the plant will use about 1,500 to 3,000 acre-feet of water per year to wash the mirrors and generate steam. The plant intends to recycle some of the water. The company says it’s well aware of the water concerns in the county and is spending a lot of time upfront on the issue, Bartlett said. But the company won’t know the exact amount of water the plant will use until the plans are finished and the quality of the water has been determined.
The Las Vegas Review Journal notes, “One acre-foot of water is enough to supply two Las Vegas Valley homes for one year.” Perhaps they should consider the Heller system (see “The secret to low-water-use, high-efficiency concentrating solar power“).
If I’m doing the math right, this CSP plant would power more than 80,000 homes while consuming the water of maybe 5000 homes.
As one of the early CSP plants, it isn’t cheap, and it will rely on the stimulus and tax credits to be built:
The new project is expected cost more than $2.1 billion. The company has applied for a federal loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy. The project is also eligible for a 30 percent Federal Investment Tax Credit.
If built, the project will create up to 1,500 jobs during its 2.5 to 3 year construction period, and offer more than 100 full-time jobs after the plant is completed. The company expects to start construction in the fourth quarter of 2010 and complete the project in the second half of 2013.
“The new project is expected cost more than $2.1 billion.” So that is about $6000/kw.
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.
This new plant does not have a power purchase agreement, but the 2.5 GW in new AZ and CA plants listed here do.
Here comes the sun!