Scholarly article on topic 'Benchmark of Concentrating Solar Power Plants: Historical, Current and Future Technical and Economic Development'

Benchmark of Concentrating Solar Power Plants: Historical, Current and Future Technical and Economic Development Academic research paper on "Earth and related environmental sciences"

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Procedia Computer Science
{"Concentrating Solar Power plants" / "parabolic trough collector" / "solar power tower" / "linear Fresnel reflector" / "parabolic dish collector"}

Abstract of research paper on Earth and related environmental sciences, author of scientific article — Meriem Chaanaoui, Sébastien Vaudreuil, Tijani Bounahmidi

Abstract This paper compares the evolution of Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) Plants. The study is based on a data of 240 CSP plants whose give us a roadmap of technical and economic characteristics of these systems. On the basis of this information collected from the literature, we benchmarked and analyzed the state of the CSP plants from 1982 to 2020. As statistical results show, 87% of CSP projects are located in Spain and USA, but other countries have invested in CSP since 2012. Solar technologies analyzed are Parabolic Trough collector (PTC), Solar Power Tower (SPT), Linear Fresnel Reflector (LFR), and Parabolic Dish Collector (PDC). As detailed data studies for Fresnel and Dish are hardly available, special attention was given to parabolic trough system. The progressive reduction in investment cost of PTC technology over time is presented, taking also into account the energy storage option. Our sensitivity analysis indicates that PTC with thermal oil and molten salt storage at 50 MW is the most mature system, but SPT plants are promising and might have the greatest potential by early 2018.

Academic research paper on topic "Benchmark of Concentrating Solar Power Plants: Historical, Current and Future Technical and Economic Development"


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Procedia Computer Science 83 (2016) 782 - 789

The 6th International Conference on Sustainable Energy Information Technology

(SEIT 2016)

Benchmark of Concentrating Solar Power plants: historical, current and future technical and economic development

Meriem Chaanaouia,b *, Sébastien Vaudreuila, Tijani Bounahmidia,b

a EuromedResearch Institute, Euro-Mediterranean University of Fes (UEMF), Fès Shore, Route de Sidi Hrazem, 30070 Fès, Morocco b Laboratoire d'Analyse et Synthèse des Procédés Industriels (LASPI), Ecole Mohammadia d'Ingénieurs (EMI), Université Mohamed V, Avenue

Ibn Sina, BP. 765 Agdal-Rabat, Morocco


This paper compares the evolution of Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) Plants. The study is based on a data of 240 CSP plants whose give us a roadmap of technical and economic characteristics of these systems. On the basis of this information collected from the literature, we benchmarked and analyzed the state of the CSP plants from 1982 to 2020. As statistical results show, 87% of CSP projects are located in Spain and USA, but other countries have invested in CSP since 2012. Solar technologies analyzed are Parabolic Trough collector (PTC), Solar Power Tower (SPT), Linear Fresnel Reflector (LFR), and Parabolic Dish Collector (PDC). As detailed data studies for Fresnel and Dish are hardly available, special attention was given to parabolic trough system. The progressive reduction in investment cost of PTC technology over time is presented, taking also into account the energy storage option. Our sensitivity analysis indicates that PTC with thermal oil and molten salt storage at 50 MW is the most mature system, but SPT plants are promising and might have the greatest potential by early 2018. © 2016 The Authors.PublishedbyElsevierB.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/). Peer-review under responsibility of the Conference Program Chairs

Keywords: Concentrating Solar Power plants; parabolic trough collector; solar power tower; linear Fresnel reflector; parabolic dish collector

1. Introduction

Our electrical and thermal- energy requirement is getting progressively higher. As reported by the International Energy Agency's (IEA) world energy outlook2013, the energy demand will increase by one third from 2011 to 2035,

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +212-664-446-232; fax: + 212-538-903-138. E-mail address:

1877-0509 © 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license


Peer-review under responsibility of the Conference Program Chairs

doi : 10.1016/j .procs. 2016.04.167

and CO2 emissions will rise by 20 to 37.2 G.tonnes1 in the same period. Having in mind that fossil fuels are expendable and that their usage has a significant impact for the environment2, there is an urgent need to reduce our dependence on conventional energy sources. In this context, the use of renewable energy technologies to generate clean energy and to sustain fossil fuel reserves become a priority.

Different types of renewable energy sources are promising with the most interesting being solar energy. Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) and Photovoltaic panels (PV) are the two major categories of solar technologies. PV cells are disadvantaged not only because their efficiency decreases with an increase in ambient temperature3, but also because they cannot generate electricity at night and on non-sunny days.

To provide a durable and efficient primary source of energy, solar energy must be captured, stored and dispatched. CSP technologies, by integrating Thermal Energy Storage, offer the possibility of generating power at all time and in spite of weather conditions4. Such system helps toward reaching a balance between demand and offer generation. Furthermore, the CSP technology is more adapted for large-scale generation because it uses turbine conversion5. For the sunniest regions, CSP can be a competitive source of power during peak and intermediate load by 2020, and for base load power by 2020-2030 according to the available technology road map6. Numerous works have studied historical, current and future state of different CSP technology in various countries for both technical and economic characteristics. Major research institutes and organizations like NREL, IEA, DLR and IRENA were the first to give investigation analysis about the CSP sector. In 2003, NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) presented the first electricity generation cost projections for CSP tower and parabolic trough plants in the U.S based on LCOE method (Levelized Cost Of Energy), with an update in 20107,8,9. DLR (German Aerospace Center), for their part, published in 2005 the earliest CSP roadmap which was incorporated within the framework of ECOSTAR project (European Concentrated Solar Thermal Road-Mapping) in partnership with EU (European Union)10. Five years later, the IEA (International Energy Agency) released a more developed roadmap6. A global CSP analysis, published in 2012 by IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency)11, can be considered as the most recent and complete CSP investigation and consulting report available12,13. Recent scientific literature discusses technical innovations, research activities and energy costs for the potential CSP deployment in several countries such as Australia14, Thailand15, Zimbabwe16, Iran17 and China18.

After a brief description of CSP plants, this work will compare quantitatively and qualitatively the various existing CSP plants for the period 1982 to 2020, using information from various available databases. Information such as the number of plants by country and year will be used, as well as the plant's status. The technical and economic characteristics of the various CSP technologies will be compared, with a special focus to parabolic trough, thanks to data availability.

2. CSP plants description

There are currently four existing CSP technologies, namely the parabolic trough collector (PTC), solar power tower (SPT), linear Fresnel reflector (LFR) and parabolic dish systems, as shown in Fig. 1. All CSP plants, without regard for the technology used, consist of the same three major components that are the solar field, the power block and the storage system.

The solar field is composed of solar concentrators having a shape adapted to the technology used. Their function is to reflect and focus the direct sunlight (DNI) onto a relative small area named receiver, where the heat transfer fluid (HTF) is heated. The energy received by the HTF is conveyed to the power block where it is converted into electricity by turbines. Thermal energy obtained from the solar field can also be used directly for process heat applications. The integration of a storage system can help to assure a continuous power generation from the plant after nightfall or on overcast days. The use of thermal energy storage will also increase the global efficiency of the plant. In some solar plants, a fuel backup system can be found to extend the capacity of energy storage19.

3. Database description

The purpose of this study is to provide an overview of existing and in-development solar systems. All information given in this paper is based on publicly available literature, especially from the CSP World Map20 and Concentrating Solar Power Projects developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) with

collaboration of SolarPaces21. Others specifics technical and economic characteristics, which were not accessible in websites libraries were derived from press articles.

Fig. 1. Existing CSP technologies22

The database analyzed consists of a total of 240 CSP plants located in various countries around the world. These systems represent an operational installed capacity of about 4.2 GW, with CSP plants ranging from the smallest (1 MW, Greenway CSP Mersin Tower Plant in Turkey) to the largest (377 MW, Ivanpah SEGS in USA). Also included in the database are earlier prototypes (10 MW Solar One-Power Tower; USA 1982) as well as plants under development which will be operational by 2020 (25 MW Abengoa Solar Jordan CSP plant, Jordan).

The major part of this database is composed of parabolic trough system, representing 147 plants out of the 240 entries. This amount to an operational installed capacity of 3.5 GW. Solar towers are the second most common technology, with 60 installations yielding a power production close to 460 MW. Dish and Fresnel mirror technologies follow, with respectively by 26 and 10 plants and a global operational capacity not exceeding 50 MW.

For each technology, the plants can be classified as "Commercial", "Demonstration" or as "Research and Development system". These systems were also divided into four main categories which are "Operational plants", "Plants under construction", "Planned" and "In development". A few plants were labelled as "Non-operational", "Withdrawn" or "Decommissioned", either because of maintenance issues, financing problems or confidential considerations.

Among the key parameters used in this roadmap are the CSP technology, project name, manufacturers, project location, operational project status, power capacity, start production and start construction year, heat transfer fluid, thermal storage option, and investment cost. Because of the lack of publicly available information, not all parameters are listed for each plant. To evaluate the impact of key parameters, different classification methods were used, including grouping by CSP technology used, operational project status for each technology, by location, by the start of production and by power capacity. These categorizations yield a good overview of the development state of CSP technologies. Because more information is available for the PTC technology, specific analyses were performed on receiver manufacturers, heat transfer fluids and investment cost.

4. Results and discussions

4.1. Solar Power Towers Plants

Data for 60 solar towers plants worldwide was collected, covering a wide range of power output between 5 MW to 2 GW. Five SPT plants, of commercial size, are currently operational. All others are either demonstrators systems, R&D prototypes or projects planned / under development. The total capacity of commercially operational solar towers, derived from the available information, is current about 460 MW with a capacity estimated to reach 6 GW for 2018.

The early development of SPT technology originated from Planta Solar 10 (PS10) and Planta Solar 20 (PS20), using water as HTF. These plants, built near Sevilla in 2005 and still commercially operational, have a power generation capacity of 10 and 20 MW respectively. Four years later, Sierra Sun Tower became the third commercial SPT system in the world and the first in USA, generating 5 MW. Technical evolution led to Gemasolar, near Sevilla, in 2011. Gemasolar is the first commercial solar tower plant operating with molten salt as HTF and storage medium.

This technology offers more flexibility in operating temperature, up to 565 °C, and thermal storage, which extends to 15 hours in the case of Gemasolar. The success of Gemasolar model gives live to many similar systems.

To attain higher temperatures, R&D prototypes were developed using pressurized air coupled to Combined Cycle turbines. Both Solar Tower Jülich (Germany 2008) and Solugas (Spain 2013) were developed using this approach. In the latter case, 4.6 MW is obtained from air heated to 800°C. Other alternatives in HTF are available for the tower receiver such as open air or superheated steam, but are still in development. Molten salts thus stay the most proven and efficient technology, making the HTF for the numerous expected SPT plants.

The central receiver technology is preferred for large-scale utility power plants reaching hundreds of MW. This can be linked to the optimized piping system found in the central receiver of the tower, whereas the Fresnel and Parabolic trough technologies requires an extensive piping system. However, SPT is disadvantaged because of its requirements for a high number of expensive heliostats and large land area, as well as the significant water consumption for process cooling and heliostats cleaning.

4.2. Parabolic trough plants

Luz Industries constructed the first commercial parabolic trough plant in the world, named Solar Energy Generating Systems I (SEGS I), operating since 1984. A year later SEGS II became operational, with SEGS being currently the second largest CSP facility in the world. A total of nine solar power plants are installed in California's Mojave Desert, totaling 354 MW. The success of SEGS I-IX proved the economic feasibility of PTC technology and encouraged owners to invest further in parabolic trough plants.

Analysis for the PTC technology relies on data available from 147 plants, 127 of them having a commercial scale. The current capacity of parabolic trough system exceeds 3.5 GW. An additional capacity of 1.2 GW is under construction while a 2.7 GW of additional capacity is under planning or development project for 2020. Parabolic trough technology, in light of the installed and planned power capacity, is the most commercially mature solar technology, having the ninth TRL level of maturity.

Data from 54 commercially operational plants were used for a statistical analysis on the manufacturers of receivers. Schott PTR and Siemens/Solel UVAC are the leaders of commercial parabolic trough receivers, with respectively 61% and 37% of the market share (33 plants versus 20, Fig. 2). A third supplier, Archimede Solar Energy Company, only has provided solar receivers to a single commercially operational parabolic trough plant, although it has two other research and development prototypes. By 2020, it will add three commercial plants, thus increasing its market share from 2% to 9%.

In the field of solar receivers, Schott PTR technology was the first company to commercially offer PTC receivers, followed in 2008 by the UVAC technology developed by Solel Solar System. Siemens bought Solel in 2009 to consolidate these activities. Technology-wise, both Siemens and Schott receivers are similar in their technical characteristics, using thermal oil as HTF in the same temperature range. Out of 65 commercially operational plants for which the pertaining information is available, more than 95% of them uses thermal oil. Only three plants, all with a small power capacity, uses water as HTF either for direct steam generation (5 MW TSE-1 plant in Thailand, 2012) or process heat. In the latter case, Micro CSP is used for solar cooling (Masdar in UAE and

Fort Bliss in USA) in a system having a thermal capacity of less than 1 MW while the outlet temperature do not exceed 100 °C. Both Micro CSP systems were built in 2011 by Soponova, a company acquired in 2014 by Hitachi Power Systems. If all categories of PTC are taken into account in the analysis, thermal oil is used in 85% of 96 plants (Fig. 3). The most commonly used oils available commercially are the Therminol VP-1, Xceltherm 600, Powertherm A, and a blend of Diphenyl/Biphenyl Oxide. Thermal oil used as HTF in a PTC plant generally enters the receiver tube at an inlet temperature of 293°C and exit at close to 393°C. This increase of 100°C is obtained over a length varying between 75 m to 115 m.

Because of the desire to increase the Rankine cycle efficiency through increased operating temperature, alternatives HTF are being investigated in replacement of thermal oil. Possible pathways include:

• The use of molten salts. A new receiver technology, developed by Archimede Solar Energy, is able to use molten salts as HTF. This technology, giving a better temperature flexibility, was used in 2008 at two research and development projects in Italy (the 0.35 MW Archimede-Chiyoda Molten Salt Test Loop and the 5 MW ENEL Archimede). The operational success of these projects in 2013 led Archimede to invest in two 50 MW projects that will become operational shortly (the Flumini Mannu and the Lentini plants);

• The use of air. The first parabolic trough system using air as HTF is being commissioned at Ait Baha (Morocco) and will generate 3 MW of power. Air reaching 560 °C is obtained at the outlet.

Analysis of the available data reveals that 50 MW seems to be the standardized capacity of PTC plants, with 46 commercially operational systems at present. This represents more than 62% of the total number for this plant type, with additional plants of the same size to be built by 2020. This 50 MW sizing may be related to technical or legal limitations such as those existing in Spain.

To perform a comparative investment analysis, ten 50 MW plants were selected - seven without storage and three with storage. For PTC plants relying on storage, a two tanks indirect molten salts storage type with a 7.5 hours capacity is generally used.

This analysis reveals that, from 2009 to 2012, the investment cost of plants without storage increased by a value not exceeding 3.7%. The situation is reversed for the 2012 to 2016 period, where a 26% decrease in new plant costs can be observed. This translates to a current investment level of 200 Million USD (SNTEG plant, Tunisia 2016) instead of the 270 Million USD required in 2012 for the Orellana plant (Fig. 4). This decrease can be explained through the cost reduction normally linked with mature technologies.

In a similar fashion, investment costs for plants with storage have shown a decrease of ~14% from 2009 to 2016. From the 348 Million USD required in 2009 for Andasol 1, investments have decreased to 300 Million USD in 2016 (Bokpoort, South Africa). An increase in investment costs for the plant is to be expected with the addition of a thermal storage system, which our analysis revealed to range from 19.9 to 33.4% of cost of the plants without storage (Fig. 4).

Cost in Million USD .....♦.....Without storage .....♦.....With 7.5 h storage capacity

340 320 300 2 SO

..........4 ------------------

.................................* ►....................4 ---------

240 220 200 180 20

...... ................


09 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016

Fig.4. Evolution of the 50 MW PTC plants investment cost

2500 1 1

2000 1

ig-150Q S


ro" 500 ll.ll ■

I ° i " j S s = 6 6 if ^ i - I a i s ; 4 a 5 3 s £ ■ 19B2 2005 ■¿005-2010 ■ 2011-201^1 & = i | J | i | i | = ■ 2015-2020

Fig.5. Number of PTCs from 1984 to 2020 worldwide by plant location

■ 1982-2DD5 2005-2010 ■ 2D11-1D1'] m 101S-1010

Fig.6. Number of SPTs from 1982 to 2020 worldwide by plant location

4.3. Development comparison between PTC and SPT

The United States and Spain currently share the most installed CSP projects, with respectively 60% and 27% of total plants installed capacity worldwide. In parabolic trough technology, the USA was the only major player until 2007 when Spain joined the CSP market. Spain has currently 48% of the total installed capacity of parabolic trough system, including demonstration prototypes, against 32% for United States (Fig. 5).

Many other countries have now invested in CSP technologies. China and India installed respectively, between 2011 and 2014, about 152 MW and 356 MW in PTC solar power (Fig. 5). Many PTC plants are expected for the 2015 to 2020 period in several countries like Chile (370 MW), South Africa (350 MW) and Jordan (225 MW). Morocco is building the world's largest concentrated solar power plant in Ouarzazate, using both Parabolic Trough Collectors and Solar Tower Collectors. Power production at the Noor plant for each technology will reach 360 MW and 150 MW respectively. These new and projected plants will reduce by 2020 the share of Spain and USA respectively to 30% and 6% of the worldwide PTC capacity.

In the field of Solar Tower Technology, the USA still maintain the lead in power production with 87% of the solar central receivers capacity while Spain represents only 6% of the total capacity (Fig. 6). Furthermore, the solar towers in USA are larger, having a power capacity up to 377 MW, while those in Spain are of much smaller size (10 to 20 MW). Other countries have also shown an interest in SPT technology, Chile and Cyprus made in 2012 the decision to build commercial scale Solar Towers of respectively 50 MW and 25 MW in size. Financial difficulties encountered in both cases have however put their construction on hold.

Many SPT projects are planned during the 2015 to 2020 period, especially in Chile (625 MW expected), China (321 MW expected) and Egypt (200 MW expected). A big solar tower project is also expected by 2020 in Tunisia (TuNur). With a capacity of 2000 MW, TuNur will account for to 30% of the SPT total capacity worldwide. At close to 3 GW, the USA will still have the lead in 2020 with an expected 43% of the worldwide SPT capacity. Another indicator of the maturity reached by the PTC technology is the number of new commercial plants built each year (Fig. 8). While a rate of two new plants can be observed from 2006 to 2008, this number increases to nine in 2009 and 2010. A peak of 25 new plants in commercial service was reached in 2012 before stabilizing at 10 per year for the 2014 to 2018 period.

In contrast, new solar towers built during the 2006 to 2015 period do not exceed two new plants by year (Fig. 7). It is however expected that the number of new tower systems will increase significantly, reaching eight plants per year in 2016 before stabilizing at 12 in 2018, a number higher than observed for the PTC technology.

25 20 IS 10 5 0 20 .....Commercial plants .... plants pi d L111 i'j nvtr Jli nn .....• R&Dproto typ H 2b 20 15 10 Commuiciiil plants —.....plants in tf emonstr otiun r&[} prototype's

m / \ \


ft #.........4

00 2008 2010 2012 2014 2010 2018 0 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014 2016 20

Fig. 7. Number of commercials, in demonstration and in Fig. 8. Number of commercials, in demonstration and in research

research and development STP plants, by year and development PTC plants, by year

Parabolic dish plants

As dish technology is rarely used in commercial scale, a list of ten projects was hard to find for our analysis. While seven of them are operating commercially, the remaining two projects are still under construction. These projects are the 1.5 MW Tooele Army Depot Dish Stirling CSP plant (USA) and the 60 MW HelioFocus China Orion Project (China). Dish technology, while having a higher peak solar-to-electric conversion than other CSP technologies, is limited by its lower individual capacity (7 to 50 kWe per dish) as well as the lack of thermal storage system.

4.4. Linear Fresnel reflectors Plants

Few commercial linear Fresnel projects can be found worldwide. A total of 15 plants - 10 of them either in the planning, construction or development stage - were identified. The total capacity currently installed for this technology, including demonstration prototypes, is roughly 46 MW. Current LFR plants, ranging from 1 to 30 MW in capacity, operate using water as HTF. In this case, the HTF inlet temperature varies between 60 °C and 190 °C while the outlet temperature is between 257 °C and 370 °C.

Current developments in LFR proves the technical feasibility of this technology. Linear Fresnel can thus be assessed as being at the eighth level in the scale of Technology Readiness Level (TRL). Progress required for LFC on optical efficiency improvement, its LCOE and land use are achieved slowly but steadily.

With all the upcoming future projects, the installed capacity will be eight times larger by 2020 to reach 387 MW. The majority of these expected projects will be located in India, Australia, China, France and South Africa, unlike solar tower and parabolic trough where most installations are located in Spain or USA.

5. Conclusion

As stated by Greenpeace, the European Solar thermal power industry and the International Energy Agency23 the global CSP capacity could reach 37 GW by 2025 and 600 GW by 2040. Such numbers confirm the promising future in this area.

On the basis of this benchmark, we can conclude that parabolic trough collector is currently the most technically and commercially mature technology, able to yield energy either as an independent or hybrid power system with a competitive cost. A typical PTC plant has a capacity of 50 MW and uses thermal oil as heat transfer fluid. Because of toxicity and flammability issues, alternatives HTF are being investigated. Fresnel mirrors using water as heat transfer fluid, while still in the experimental stage, is considered as a possible competitor to the parabolic trough technology. The main improvement required is related to the lower optical efficiency than with parabolic mirrors. The PDC system, while exhibiting a zero water consumption and a higher solar-to-electricity conversion, is currently not a viable commercial option because of prohibitive costs and the lack of storage option. On the other hand, solar tower technology can compete advantageously against parabolic trough by achieving higher operating temperatures, thanks to the molten salts used as HTF in commercial solar tower. This makes the solar tower

technology ideal for large-scale power generation. Despite the current maturity of parabolic trough, the trend will tilt in the coming years toward installation of solar tower. By 2020, the capacity of expected project will reach 5.5 GW for SPT against 3.9 GW for PTC.

Even if the installed capacity is not evenly shared, many countries have adopted policies toward the use of solar energy. This is especially true in Africa and Asia, considered ideal locations because of their weather conditions and land availability to implement these technologies.


This study was performed within the framework of a research project funded by IRESEN, the Research Institute for Solar Energy and New Energies. The authors would like to thank IRESEN for their continuing financial support.


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