A successful transition to a low carbon future requires that power be generated all of the time, 24/7, not just when the sun is shining. But few clean emissions power technologies can operate 24/7. Concentrated solar power (CSP) can because it can store thermal energy at 10–20% of the cost of batteries1 and can then burn fuel when its solar resource is exhausted. However, many see first generation CSP as too costly, complex, risky, and economical only at utility scale.
Alternatively, by mimicking the all-factory, standardized, modular approach of wind and PV, next generation CSP with low-cost dry thermal storage (e.g., firebrick, not molten salts), and using no water/steam (just hot air) may give CSP the potential to fulfill on its promise of baseload affordability.
This technical paper summarizes an Engineering and Cost Feasibility Study2 funded by the US Department of Energy as well as presents a new breakthrough power generation product based on the Brayton power tower system called 247Solar Plants™. Design, construction, and operation are all simplified with greatly reduced costs and increased deployment speeds.
Such modular CSP systems can be installed as single units or 100s of modules at utility scale. The microturbines used by the system stabilize grids by responding nearly instantly, similar to battery response time, to changing power demands and voltage fluctuations, while offering dispatchable, reliable electricity. The redundancy of multiple modules in a single project increases capacity factor, operational flexibility, and project reliability.
The DOE Study shows that such a system may be able to achieve the two key DOE targets included: 1) a capacity factor of at least 75%, of which >85% would be solar with <15% from fuels; and LCOE3s <9ȼ/kWh. Indeed, LCOEs under 6ȼ/kWh may be possible with further development and widespread deployment.