Preface. The authors conclude that:
In light of the obtained results — a low capacity factor and Energy Returned on Invested, an intensive use of materials—some scarce, and the significant seasonal intermittence) — the potential contribution of current CSP technologies in a future 100% RES system seems very limited.
Alice Friedemann www.energyskeptic.com author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report
Castro, C., et al. 2018. Concentrated Solar power: actual performance and foreseeable future in high penetration scenarios of renewable energies. Biophysical economics and resource quality.
Analyses proposing a high share of concentrated solar power (CSP) in future 100% renewable energy scenarios rely on the ability of this technology, through storage and/or hybridization, to partially avoid the problems associated with the hourly/ daily (short-term) variability of other variable renewable sources such as wind or solar photovoltaic. However, data used in the scienti?c literature are mainly theoretical values. In this work, the actual performance of CSP plants in operation from publicly available data from four countries (Spain, the USA, India, and United Arab Emirates) has been estimated for three dimensions: capacity factor (CF), seasonal variability, and energy return on energy invested (EROI).
The authors used real data from 34 CSP plants to find actual capacity factors, which were much lower than had been assumed.
OVERALL AVERAGE: ACTUAL CF 0.15–0.3, ASSUMED 0.25 to 0.75
|CSP plant||Technology||Storage Hours||Expected CF||Literature CF||Real CF|
|Nevada Solar One||Parabolic||0.5||0.2||0.42–0.51||0.18|
|Martin Next Generation||Parabolic||No||0.24||0.25–0.5||0.16|
|Ivanpah 1, 2, 3||Tower||No||0.31||0.25–0.28||0.19|
Table 2 United States only, not shown: UAE, Spain, and India. Estimates of the CF of several individual CSP plants, sets of plants and global USA and Spanish CSP systems: expected values from the industry, values used in the scientific literature and the results obtained in the work for real plants
In fact, the results obtained show that the actual performance of CSP plants is significantly worse than that projected by constructors and considered by the scientific literature in the theoretical studies:
low standard EROI of 1.3:1–2.4:1, 12 other researchers gave a range of 9.6 to 67.6 (see Table 7). Given that CSP plants cost more than any other kind of RES, it’s not surprising that the EROI is so low.
Other significant issues for CSP
- intensive use of materials—some scarce
- Substantial seasonal intermittence.
Analyses proposing a high share of CSP in future 100% RES scenarios rely on the ability of this technology, through storage and/or hybridization, to partially avoid the problems associated with the hourly/ daily (short-term) variability of other renewable variable sources, such as wind or PV.
But this advantage seems to be more than offset by the overall performance of real CSP plants. In fact, the results from CSP plants in operation, using publicly available data from four countries (Spain, the USA, India, and UAE) show that the actual performance of CSP plants is shown to be significantly worse than projected by the builders and in the scientific literature which has been using theoretical numbers. In fact, the exaggeration in scientific literature is paradoxical given that there have been publicly available data for many power plants for years.
By overestimating the capacity factor, the life cycle analyses that estimate the energy and material requirements, EROI, environmental impacts, and economic costs are exaggerated as well.
The capacity factor turns out to be quite low, on the same order as wind and PV, CSP has very low EROI, intensive use of materials—some scarce—and significant seasonal intermittence problems, with seasonal variability worse than for wind or PV in Spain and the USA, where the output can be zero for many days in winter.
Since CSP has to be put in hot deserts with a lot of sunlight, they’re vulnerable to damage from wind, dust, sand, extreme temperatures, water scarcity, and more.