Concentrated Solar Power Concentrated Solar Power

What is Concentrated Solar Power (CSP)?

Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) technologies produce electricity by concentrating the sun’s rays to heat a medium (usually a liquid or gas) that is then used in a heat engine process (steam or gas turbine) to drive an electrical generator. CSP uses only the beam component of solar radiation (direct normal irradiance), and so its maximum benefit tends to be restricted to a limited geographical range. [European Commission 2013a].

To concentrate solar radiation four designs are identified (see Figure 1):

Parabolic trough: Long rows of parabolic reflectors concentrate the sunlight 70 to 100 times onto a heat collection element (HCE) placed along the reflector’s focal line. The Sun is tracked around one axis, typically oriented north–south.

Linear Fresnel reflectors: The attraction of linear Fresnel is that installed costs on a m2 basis can be lower than troughs, and the receiver is fixed. However, the annual optical performance is lower than a trough reflector.

Central receivers (Solar towers): This technology uses an array of mirrors (heliostats), with each mirror tracking the Sun and reflecting its light onto a fixed receiver on top of a tower, where temperatures of more than 1 000 °C can be reached.

Dish systems: paraboloid-shaped and concentrate the sunlight onto a receiver mounted at the focal point, with the receiver moving with the dish. Dishes have been used to power Stirling engines at 900 °C, as well as to generate steam.

Figure 1: Layout of different Concentrated Solar Power configuration


According to the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), potential of electricity produced by CSP in Europe is around 1500 TWh/year being the Mediterranean countries those with the highest potential according to their available radiation (over 2000 kWh/year). The global installed capacity could reach 150 GW by 2020, with an average capacity factor of 32 %. [IRENA 2013]

CSP employed 22 000 people worldwide in 2014, 15 000 in the case of Europe [Ferroukhi et al. 2015]. In the period 2015-2030, the solar thermal electricity is expected to create up to 150,000 qualified jobs including engineering, development and financing, manufacturing, construction and operation and maintenance [Estela 2016].

The potential technology deployment is supported by national policies. Thus, six EU countries have reflected CSP in their National Renewable Action Plans (NREAPs): Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain. So, despite economic environment is expected a technology spread in the coming years. [SETIS 2013]

Further information on CSP can be found at the Strategic Energy Technologies Information System (SETIS): https://setis.ec.europa.eu/technologies/concentrated-solar-power
 

References

[European Commission 2013a] European Commission: Concentrating Solar Power (76). DOI:10.2172/939307

[IRENA 2013] IRENA: Concentrating Solar Power. Renewable Energy 1 (331–339). DOI:10.1063/1.2993731

[Estela 2016] ESTELA: STE CREATES JOBS IN EUROPE. URL: http://www.estelasolar.org/ste-means-jobs-and-green-growth/ste-creates-jobs-in-europe/

[SETIS 2013] SETIS: Concentrated solar power (1–18)

 

What are the barriers and needs of the CSP technology?

The main barriers and needs facing the sector are shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Challenges & needs faced by the concentrated solar power technology in the near future [International Energy Agency 2010], [IRENA 2013]

Key Aspects

Challenges/Obstacles

Needs

Cost competitiveness

Nowadays CSP is not competitive in electricity markets, except for remote areas such as islands or remote grids. Therefore its development depends on incentives.

According to future deployment scenarios, R&D investment is insufficient to accelerate to achieve goals and reduce costs.

Development of long-term policy frameworks to foster and secure CSP technology developments investments.

Component improvements

Scaling-up of first-generation technologies

Development of an integrated EU strategy, aligning both national and European initiatives.

More open access to R&D facilities.

Standardisation

Standards are not always binding preventing from supporting price schemes, which are guaranteed by utilities on a case-by-case basis.

Development of standards in Europe is already underway within the framework of the Spanish AEN/CTN 206 standardisation groups and this standardisation activity should be supported as a priority

Development of enabling technologies

Lack of flexibility and integration in the grid.

Difficulties in the integration of large plants

Create a grid infrastructure for importing CSP energy between adjacent countries.

Increase connection between Europe and North Africa to facilitate the use of the resources available. Establishment of a pan-Mediterranean grid infrastructure. The north African potential could meet several times electricity demand of Europe, Middle East and North Africa.

Regulatory framework

Lack of investors confident

Absence of incentives for solar process heat for industrial application.

Implementation of long-term frameworks, supported by regulatory schemes. 

EU and Member State levels should provide the necessary financial, infrastructure and operational instruments to take advantage of the solar resource in the Southern Euro- pean countries, reducing energy dependence on natural gas and supporting the deployment of European CSP technology all around the world.

Within the regulatory framework, some actions are proposed in the timeframe 2010-2020 [International Energy Agency 2010]:

  • Establish an equitable environment for CSP development through feed-in tariffs or binding renewable energy standards on a par with ground-mounted PV.
  • Avoid arbitrary limitations on plant size and hybridisation ratios.
  • Consider offering suitable land and access to grid or water resources, and waiving land property and other taxes for quick-start deployment
  • Progressively eliminate subsidies to fossil fuels and price CO2 emissions.
  • Develop incentive schemes for solar process fuels
 
References

[International Energy Agency 2010] International Energy Agency: Technology Roadmap: Concentrating Solar Power. DOI:10.1787/9789264088139-en

[IRENA 2013] IRENA: Concentrating Solar Power. Renewable Energy 1 (331–339). DOI:10.1063/1.2993731

 

What are the industry and the EU doing about CSP?

Although CSP does not remain as stable as other renewable technologies, it shows a remarkable growth during last decade with a total capacity increasing of 27% [REN21 2014].

In 2014 a notable diversification of technologies took place, being parabolic though the most representative technology.

In Europe, Spain still remains the global leader in terms of total install capacity (over 2 GW) and more than 30% of the total installed capacity worldwide. However, this capacity has remain steady since 2013, being India and United States the only countries that have added capacity [IEA 2014]

On the other hand the economic potential of CSP electricity in Europe (EU-27) is estimated to be around 1 500 TWh/year, mainly in Mediterranean countries (direct normal irradiance (DNI) > 2 000 kWh/ m2/year).

In the last decade, the European industry remained as leader in the particular technology. However the lack of long-term policy is threatening this leading position. [European Commission 2013a]

Figure 2: Maps of the public R&D investment in concentrated solar power in Europe. Legend in EUR million [European Commission 2013a]


Research activities are mainly focused on cost reduction and higher performances. Concerning higher performance several themes have been identified [European Commission 2013a]:

  • Technology and components related to the main configurations
  • Energy storage
  • Plant concepts
  • Research facilities and basic R&D support
  • Solar chemistry
  • Solar resource measurement and forecasting
References

[REN21 2014] REN21: RENEWABLES 2015 GLOBAL STATUS REPORT

[IEA 2014] IEA: Technology Roadmap. Solar Thermal Electricity. SpringerReference (64). DOI:10.1007/SpringerReference_7300

[European Commission 2013a] European Commission: Concentrating Solar Power (76). DOI:10.2172/939307

 

What is the current and future potential place of CSP?

With the appropriate support, CSP may provide up to 9.6 % of the global electricity production by 2050 [International Energy Agency 2010]. In the EU frame, CSP was recognised as one of the technologies to achieve ambitious European goals in terms of energy sector decarbonisation.

Figure 3: European CSP capacities in 2030 and 2050 forecast [IEA 2014]

 

Based on an increased efficiency of component and price reduction, most recent estimation expects that 11 % of electricity will be produced by solar thermal electricity by 2050. In the European framework, it is foreseen a total installed capacity of 28 GW [IEA 2014].        

At the national level, projections for energy production by using CSP show a rapidly growth based on the different national renewable energy action plan (NREAP). Predictions for 2020 are presented in Figure 3.

According to this perspective, private sector already working in commercial solution is also expected to continue working on R&D issues related to amongst others [European Commission 2013a]:

  • Simulating complex plant behaviour
  • Setting component standards
  • Quantifying CSP dispatchability in various markets

On top of that, there are also some potential synergies with other sectors such as hydrogen (H2) and also district cooling and water desalinisation [Lacal-Arantegui et al. 2014].
 

Figure 4: Projected CSP capacity by 2020 [European Commission 2013a]

References

[International Energy Agency 2010] International Energy Agency: Technology Roadmap: Concentrating Solar Power. DOI:10.1787/9789264088139-en

[IEA 2014] IEA: Technology Roadmap. Solar Thermal Electricity. SpringerReference (64). DOI:10.1007/SpringerReference_7300

[European Commission 2013a] European Commission: Concentrating Solar Power (76). DOI:10.2172/939307

[Lacal-Arantegu et al. 2014] Lacal-Arantegu R: , Jäger-Waldau A: , Bocin-Dumitriu A: , Sigfusson B: , Zubi G: , Magagna D: , Carlsson J: , Perez Fortes M del M: , Moss R: , Lazarou S: , Baxter D: , Scarlat N: , Giuntoli J: , Moro A: , Padella M: , Kousoulidou M: , Vorkapic V: , Marelli L: , Steen M: , Zucker A: , Moya Rodriguez J: , Bloem H: , and Moles C: 2013 Technology Map of the European Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan). JRC 86357/EUR 26345 EN. Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg

 

Who is/should be involved in CSP?

CSP progress is based on two main developments pillars, on the one hand the improvement of solar concentration technologies and on the other the improvement of steam and gas cycles [Lacal-Arantegu et al. 2014]. Therefore resources on R&D are still needed involving innovative companies as well as public financial support and public support is still needed.

On the other hand, according to the current status of the technology in which industrial companies are already commercialising CSP products, the role of the industry and industrial association is essential to mainly reduce the cost of the technology which represents the main barrier to be overcome.

Table 2: List of European regions with Energy Policy Priority on Concentrated solar power [Eye@RIS3 2015][1]

Region / Country Name

Description

Capability

Capability(Sub)

Target Market

Target Market (Sub)

Cyprus

Energy: renewable forms of energy, solar energy, Solar-thermal technology Solar Photovoltaic, Technologies for Solar Heating and Cooling, energy storage and transfer

Energy production & distribution

 

Energy production & distribution

 

Languedoc-Roussillon

Industrial and energy transition (dismantling, decommissioning, demolition, disposal waste and separative technologies, and solar concentration  - high solar performance)

Energy production & distribution

Power generation/renewable sources

Energy production & distribution

Power generation/renewable sources

Umbria

Solar energy

Manufacturing & industry

 

Energy production & distribution

Power generation/renewable sources

 

References

[Lacal-Arantegu et al. 2014] Lacal-Arantegu R: , Jäger-Waldau A: , Bocin-Dumitriu A: , Sigfusson B: , Zubi G: , Magagna D: , Carlsson J: , Perez Fortes M del M: , Moss R: , Lazarou S: , Baxter D: , Scarlat N: , Giuntoli J: , Moro A: , Padella M: , Kousoulidou M: , Vorkapic V: , Marelli L: , Steen M: , Zucker A: , Moya Rodriguez J: , Bloem H: , and Moles C: 2013 Technology Map of the European Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan). JRC 86357/EUR 26345 EN. Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg

[Eye@RIS3 2015] Eye@RIS3. URL: http://s3platform.jrc.ec.europa.eu/map

[1] Disclaimer: Regions and countries have been included based on the interpretation of the description included in [Eye@RIS3 2015]

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