Concentrated Solar Power is the technology which uses mirrors to concentrate the sun’s energy to drive traditional steam turbines or engines that create electricity. The thermal energy concentrated in a CSP plant can be stored and used to produce electricity when it is needed, day or night.
Concentrated solar power (CSP), a renewable energy technology which had more or less dropped off the radar, is slowly becoming competitive in certain countries.
Global CSP capacity around the world has risen by a considerable 11 percent last year, led primarily by Spain and Morocco. CSP is about to put itself back on the worldwide energy map in a big way–and for a very good reason.
Price: A recent analysis of power generation costs from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) revealed that CSP fell more steeply in cost last year than any other renewable technology. It declined 26 percent year on year, double the rate seen in onshore wind and PV, and has dropped 46 percent since 2010.
IRENA said the rapid drop in CSP prices last year “should be treated with caution” because of the limited number of projects going ahead in 2018. At the same time, though, CSP deployment is set to rise in China this year, making a rebound in average global costs unlikely.
CSP has been slow to grow in the last decade mainly because PV raced ahead of it on cost, but also because of the economics of plant development.
The cost-effectiveness of CSP technology improves with direct normal irradiance levels and also with increasing plant size, which means the most competitive plants are the ones that require the biggest amount of upfront funding which is one of its biggest challenges.
More recently, attention has shifted to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), where CSP is of interest for its local content potential and because, unlike PV, it can easily store thermal energy, within massive tanks of molten salt, for use after sundown.
MENA is where most recent cost reductions have come from. In July 2017, for example, a Dubai Electricity and Water Authority tender attracted a record-low CSP bid of $94.50 per megawatt-hour.
And this year, developer ACWA Power of Saudi Arabia was reported to be targeting a cost of close to $50 per megawatt-hour at another Dubai project, the 950-megawatt Noor Energy 1 hybrid CSP and PV plant.
Market intelligence firm Visiongain recently released a massive 155-page report on the matter, called Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) Market Report 2019-2029, which found that the global CSP market will reach $37.3 this year and Spain, the USA, South Africa, and India will be the major countries for the CSP demand.
China: These cost reductions have come about in part thanks to the appearance of Chinese players in the CSP supply chain. Chinese interests have partnered in Middle Eastern projects, for example with state-owned investment vehicle Silk Road Fund participating in Noor Energy 1.
This activity seems partly aimed at gathering experience that can be put to use in China’s rapidly growing national CSP market.
The U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory lists more than 1.6 gigawatts of Chinese CSP capacity spread across 25 plants in operation or in various stages of development.
While Spain and the US will remain at the top of the CSP capacity charts, this ranking may be short-lived. China’s CSP market is expanding at a serious clip, and with their apparent interest to be involved at all levels, we can more-than-likely expect China to dominate the CSP markets in the very near future.