Top 5 lessons from CSP conference in Beijing

The CSPPLAZA conference held in Beijing from 20-22 of June of 2018. Many international as well as Chinese speakers and guests shared with the participants their views on the present and future development of CSP. Here are the top 5 lessons we’ve learned at this year's conference:

 1.   Decreasing cost of CSP technology. Many speakers referred to the continuous decrease in CSP cost worldwide due to technology innovation, public incentives and exploring of places with better solar irradiation. Simon Benmarraze from IRENA stated that LCOE is expected to decrease by 37% for parabolic trough and by 43% for solar tower plants by 2025. For parabolic trough plants, major cost drivers can be identified as lower investment costs for thermal storage, due to HTF change and reduction of solar field costs. For tower plants, EPC experience will drive costs down with indirect EPC costs alone expected to contribute about 1/5 to the overall LCOE reduction potential. The trend of cost decrease is seen already with the recent bid of CSP project in Dubai, won by ACWA and Shanghai Electrics, with the lowest LCOE of USD 7.3 cents/kWh.

2.   Recent PV tariffs cut in China might affect whole CSP sector. Subsidies and political support are important for CSP development. Many experts believe that the support of CSP by the Chinese government could contribute to further prices decline, in the same way, as it has happened with PV sector, yet for that, the external demand for the technology is also needed. With the recent subsidies cut on PV, almost 20GW of solar projects, which were expected to be built in China this year, will now be scrapped because of new tariffs' policy. Thus, the main CSP players expect more auctions, rather the FIT tariffs in the future. Indeed, the auction is an important tool to establish more market-based incentives with a regulated quantity of energy projects and it seems that many governments are following this logic.

3.   Storage is a key advantage to differentiate the CSP from other renewable technologies. One of the presentations was made by the SaltX, which developed a novel high performing thermo-chemical Energy Storage for CSP. They use nano coated salt instead of regular one, which increases the number of recharges to 50,000 instead of previously possible 50 charges. The nano salt also prevents corrosion and has lower cost among other benefits. This and other innovations in storage could bring a further reduction in CAPEX, which CSP sector expects in the years to com.

4.   World Bank actively finances CSP projects around the world and looking for the potential project in China. The representative from World Bank in China, Zhihong Zhang, talked about the CSP projects the organization has financed in various countries as Morocco, Egypt, Mexico among others, and mentioned that they would be interested to finance the CSP project in China. 

5.   CSP/PV Power plant becomes more widespread. Adil Bouabdallah, from MASEN, talked about the upcoming Midelt project, which includes a combination of concentrated solar power (CSP) and PV. The project is currently in the final stage of defining the winner of bidding.

Indeed, Chile, China and now Morocco, as well as other countries are exploring the hybridization of two technologies to provide a dispatchable power 24/7. From the academic point, numerous studies have shown the advantages of such combination. For instance, The study done by Rongrong Zhai e al. (2017) proposed the thermal storage PV-CSP system, that is, using low-cost TES in the CSP system to replace a high-cost battery in PV system and storing fluctuant PV electricity in TES in the form of thermal energy. The annual output from the thermal storage PV-CSP plant increased by 6.52%, and capacity increased by 4.85% compared with the conventional PV-CSP system in the constant-output strategy, thereby indicating that the integration is helpful for fully utilizing solar energy. Another research on CSP/PV plant in South Africa was conducted by Pan and Dinter (2017). The study demonstrated that hybrid CSP/PV plant has higher annual energy yield and capacity factors of up to 90% can be expected with a significant reduction in cost. The LCOE vary in the range of 0.133–0.157 $/kW h for baseload which can substitute generation capacity from old coal-fired power plants.

Many participants mentioned the CSP/PV hybrid option and its advantages and we might see more of these projects in future. 

This septemer, from 12th-14th, the 4th China Solar Thermal Electricity Conference will be held in Changzhou city, Jiangsu Province. Let’s get together to promote the technological exchange and cooperation on concentrated solar power.

(Written by Alina Gilmanova)


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