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Thermal Storage Adds Value to Concentrating Solar Power Plants


A Concentrating Solar Power [CSP] PlantUtility companies, in an effort to provide more carbon-free power, have learned to diversify their power-power generating facilities. Instead of the power grid being supplied by a single source, many different sources come together to provide power for the whole grid. Solar power is one of these sources, but has a flaw, that is, when the sun doesn’t shine, no power is generated.

A photovoltaic [PV] plant’s solar panels produce clean carbon-free power as long as the sun is shining, but as soon as sun goes down, instant power loss. In order to get around this, power companies have to resort to power generators running fossil fuels, including oil, gas, even coal. Concentrating Solar Power [CSP] plants have the same problem, but thermal energy storage [TES] can be added to the system to smooth out variations during the day, as well as lasting a few hours into the night, reducing the amount of fossil fuels required.

While the addition of TES to CSP plants adds significant value, it has been difficult to quantify this and make it an attractive option for the utilities. Green energy is nice, but it all comes down to the bottom line, or production costs, for a utility company. Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s [DOE] National Renewable Energy Laboratory [NREL] recently completed a study that confirms TES benefits, ecologically and economically.

Using Energy Exemplar’s PLEXOS simulation model, the NREL researchers compared variations of a gas-turbine and solar power plant, using PV, CSP, and CSP w/ TES technologies. A CSP plant with a six-hour TES system keeps variations in solar output to a minimum, as well as lasting part way into the night, which “adds $35.80/MWh to capacity and operation value of the utility, compared to PV alone, and even higher extra value when compared to CSP without storage,” according to Mark Mehos, NREL manager of the CSP program.

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  1. Opportunites For Energy Arbitrage, R&D partnerships and patent licensing.
    Vulvox’s innovation                           will enable energy storage of intermittent photovoltaic and wind power.  The patent pending Vulvox system                           is expected to cost 7.69% as much as pumped hydroelectric storage, its least expensive competitor and 2.7% as much as                           compressed air storage.  Cheap electrcity storage systems are desired by the renewable power industry and government                           smart grid programs. It will stabilize the electricity grid and help prevent blackouts and brownouts. It can store intermittent                           renewable energy including wind power, solar power and tidal energy, and later release the electrcity when it is desirable,                           such as at peak periods when air conditioner use rises on hot summer days. It can store electrcity for vehicle battery recharging                           stations. It can store electricity generated by Stirling dish solar energy collectors making that form of solar energy available                           around the clock instead of during daylight hours. Utility scale electricity storage will reduce greenhouse gas emissions                           and slow or reverse damage to the environment that excess carbon dioxide is causing. As already stated it will provide                           bulk energy storage for utilities – shifting large amounts of energy from excess production times to peak usage times                           and that will enable storage of cheap electrcity generated during off peak hours to be sold during peak demand periods. It                           will also enable lower usage of expensive auxiliary power generators used during peak demand periods and it will replace them                           with cheap regenerated energy generated overnight  and stored by our system. According to a Lux research                           report released May 29, 2008- “Bulk energy storage for utilities – shifting large amounts of energy from excess                           production times to peak usage times – presents the biggest potential opportunity of all markets studied: If even 10%                           of installed wind power plants adopted large-scale energy storage, the market would hit $50 billion.”
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    Wind and Solar Power Paired With Storage Could Power Grid 99.9 Percent of the Time
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    [email protected]


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