|Stirling Dishes win on Price and Modularity|
Despite competitive photovoltaic prices and lingering environmental and financing concerns, concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies are poised for gigawatt-scale adoption in 2011; and future growth will remain healthy as the generation stack increasingly incorporates CSP plants in excess of 100 MW. However, in order to land their share of this emerging market, utilities and developers alike will need a clear grasp of the economic and performance factors driving adoption of CSP’s four main technology contenders, according to a new report from Lux Research.
The report, titled “Solar Thermal Update: The Renaissance of Concentrating Solar Power,” compares the economics and performance of three key CSP technologies – parabolic trough, power tower, and Stirling thermal systems – as well as CSP’s arch-competitor, photovoltaic systems. To do so, it examines the application of each technology in a hypothetical 100 MW plant, and compares their levelized cost of electricity (LCOE), capital costs and internal rate of return, among other factors driving adoption.
“After a few fits and starts, solar thermal projects have begun to make a big impact on the generation mix in both Spain and the Southwest U.S,” said Ted Sullivan, a Lux Research Senior Analyst and the report’s lead author. “Though trough technologies have been dominant to date, we expect power tower solutions to gain increasing prominence as the technology is proven, because their integration with thermal storage technologies smashes through the fundamental constraint that has held solar back to date: intermittency.”
Among the report’s key findings:
• Dish Stirling offers the lowest capital expenditures. A more modular technology, dish Stirling leads the pack in terms of cost, due to its cheap Stirling engines. Meanwhile, the costly mirror fields of parabolic trough plants make them the priciest of CSP options, while power-tower systems are relatively cost competitive. Driven by high module costs, PV systems fall somewhere in the middle.