Abengoa, BrightSource Energy and Torresol Energy announced they formed the Concentrating Solar Power Alliance (CSPA) to further the goals of CSP companies. The organization will educate regulators, utilities and grid operators about the benefits of CSP projects, including the low electric prices such technologies are able to offer.
The organization is will focus on solar thermal-based technologies, which mainly include trough and tower-type solar systems.
“One of the things we’re emphasizing is these technologies have ability to store energy,” said Tex Wilkins, the alliance’s executive director and a 31-year veteran of the Department of Energy.
Most use molten salts or other means to store thermal energy, which is used to superheat water into steam and powers a turbine generator.
Since they use thermal energy to provide generation, excess energy can be stored and released on an as-needed basis, unlike PV, which only operates in the sun. The ability to produce during shady periods or even during the night makes the technology more like base-load generation facilities.
The organization will work to explain the unique capabilities of CSP to utilities and grid operators primarily in the U.S. Southwest, where the resources are greatest, according to Wilkins.
“What I’m going to be focused on is probably states as opposed to federal government,” he said. “I think everyone is supportive of what they’re doing. I think the issue is that SEIA had a very broad base and a lot of their focus is on lobbying Washington to implement policies or budgets that are beneficial to the whole industry.”
Most CSP projects need to be larger than PV projects to make economic sense.
“The economic analysis is that the lowest cost for CSP is probably somewhere above 100 megawatts, maybe in the 125-megawatt to 150-megawatt range,” Wilkins said.
At this point the coalition is small but likely to grow quickly.
“Already there have been several more companies that have expressed an interest. We’re trying to represent the best that CSP has to offer, and hopeful an educated utility will give CSP a second thought when it comes to renewable energy,” Wilkins said.