Concentrating Solar Power — large power plants that convert thermal energy into electricity — offer firm, centralized power that better match a utility’s needs. See “Solar Can Be Baseload: Spanish CSP Plant with Storage Produces Electricity for 24 Hours Straight.”
But CSP plants, which require far more material and man-power to develop than equivalent PV plants, are not coming down in cost as quickly. That’s not because the technology is flawed. It’s because CSP requires a unique set of requirements that make them more capital intensive to build.
An investment announced today by the Department of Energy may help accelerate those cost reductions. The DOE is working to facilitate more innovation in the sector by investing $60 million over the next three years toward companies and labs developing new technologies and power plant development techniques. The funds are being deployed through the SunShot Initiative, DOE’s competitive program with the goal of reducing solar costs by 75%.
DOE is looking at deploying funds to 20 teams working on new solar collectors, heat transfer technologies, power plant engineering approaches, and improvements in steam temperature ranges.
It could provide a good R&D boost for the sector, which has been somewhat overshadowed by the frenzy around cost and price reductions in solar PV.
Last year, DOE put released a good film highlighting all the different types of CSP currently being deployed. It’s a bit rudimentary for those who know about the technology, but it illustrates the various ways in which the technologies could be improved.