The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.
Untitled Document

The Cost of Utility-scale Solar: PV vs. CST

On a utility scale, which of these two technologies is cheaper: photovoltaics (PV) or concentrating solar thermal (CST)? -- Lisa B, Denver, Colorado

The short answer would be that on an apples-to-apples comparison in the southwestern United States, concentrating solar thermal parabolic troughs (CST) have a lower levelized cost of energy (LCOE) per kilowatt-hour (kWh) than photovoltaics (PV) today. Outside of the broad southwest (which includes 7-8 states), PV is really the only game in town (at least for now, a CST project in Florida not-withstanding).

Looking forward, PV probably has a faster cost reduction curve than CST and their LCOE will cross paths within the next five years, i.e. PV will become cheaper. Concentrating photovoltaics (CPV) is the wild card that could also reach parity with CST over the next ten years.

The next obvious question is that given cost parity between the three technologies, which one is preferred by utilities?

The cost of energy is not the only criteria for utilities seeking renewable energy. The ability to generate during periods of high demand, including into the evening, makes any renewable technology much more valuable. Additionally, minute-to-minute operating characteristics on the grid, such as the potential for rapid changes in output, are also important, especially at the utility scale.

CST projects can offer both better peak capacity characteristics, with 6-8 hour thermal storage, as well as a smoother short-term fluctuations. Intermittent clouds going over a PV system will cause output to spike widely. But with a CST plant, which has thermal inertia in the heat transfer fluids, an operator can have some warning of the clouds, slow the fluid flow rate, which increases the fluid temperatures, and ride through short-term cloud events. (For reference, a wind turbine probably falls somewhere between the two technologies-there is kinetic inertia in the wind and the turbine blades, which provides a somewhat better short-term profile than PV.)

Of course, utility scale storage technologies for PV are being developed, and in some cases demonstrated. Initially these will provide similar ride-through capabilities during short-term cloud events, but as the storage technologies scale-up, they could potentially offer hourly storage into the evening. But right now in the southwest, CST has the cost and storage advantage, but PV essentially has a geographic monopoly everywhere else.

Untitled Document

Get All the Renewable Energy World News Delivered to Your Inbox

Subscribe to Renewable Energy World or email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest news and information.

 Subscribe Now

RELATED ARTICLES

Electricity Deregulation

Japan Electricity Deregulation: Birth of Municipally Owned Electric Utilities

Junko Movellan, Correspondent The upcoming retail electricity deregulation in Japan will create a way for Japanese municipal governments to produce...
Solar panel

REC Joins O Capital in Egypt to Tap Solar Panel Market in Middle East, Africa

Anna Hirtenstein, Bloomberg REC Solar ASA has signed a deal with O Capital, the renewable energy arm of Orascom Telecom Media and Technology Hold...
Solar PV

OneEnergy Seeks Authority to Build 6 MW Solar PV Facility in Southern Maryland

Jennifer Delony OneEnergy Renewables is seeking regulatory approval in Maryland to build a 6 MW solar PV facility in Somerset County,...
Solar water heating

California Regulators Propose Expansion of Eligibility Requirements for Solar Water Heating Program

Jennifer Delony The California Public Utilities Commission has proposed expanding the eligibility requirements for customers seeking ...

PRESS RELEASES

Canadian Solar Wins Five Solar Power Projects Totaling 185 MW in Brazil

These power projects were won under a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the B...

$100 Off of 5-day Advanced PV Project Experience. Download a Topic Schedule.

Assemble, ground, energize, and commission a complete grid-tied SolarEdge system from s...

Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd talks politics of fear vs. politics of hope

Rudd, who led the Australian parliament from 2007 to 2010, told the Summit audience tha...

Intersolar AWARD „Solar Projects in India“ – Applications being accepted until September 18

The Intersolar AWARD in the category Solar Projects in India honors projects in the fie...

FEATURED BLOGS

Washington, DC Bridges the Solar Gap

The District of Columbia has enjoyed 15 years of strong economic growth. But prosperity is spread unevenly across the...

Sell Through Hypothesis

You first learned to hypothesize, or make educated guesses, in grade school science class. Now it’s time to ref...

Cronimet / THEnergy study: In solar for mines size does not always matter - Reducing CAPEX with energy efficiency and load shifting

Munich, September 2015. Mining companies are constantly gaining interest in solar solutions because frequently solar ...

Final Program Now Available for GRC Annual Meeting & GEA Geothermal Energy Expo

GRC Annual Meeting & GEA Geothermal Energy Expo - Final Program from

FINANCIAL NEWS

Mike Taylor is the Director of Research for the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) and leads SEPA’s research publications and materials for over 1000 electric utility and solar industry members. Prior to joining SEPA in 2006, Mike spent seve...

CURRENT MAGAZINE ISSUE

Volume 18, Issue 4
1507REW_C11

STAY CONNECTED

To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

Successfully Integrating Solar: A Proactive Approach

•      What does the increasing solar penetrati...

PV-Diesel Hybrid Systems to Reduce Diesel Demand

Substantial fuel cost saving potential has made PV technology the centre...

Presenting at PV Insider O&M Conference

Charles Pimentel, COO of Solar Frontier Americas will be presenting on t...

COMPANY BLOGS

Sell Through Hypothesis

You first learned to hypothesize, or make educated guesses, in grade sch...

Vacancy? No Problem!

Have you ever tried to sell an efficiency product or service to a prospe...

Going The Extra Mile

Selling efficiency takes perseverance, creativity, and a willingness to ...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS