Capacity Value of Concentrating Solar Power Plants

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


This study estimates the capacity value of a concentrating solar power (CSP) plant at a variety of locations within the western United States. This is done by optimizing the operation of the CSP plant and by using the effective load carrying capability (ELCC) metric, which is a standard reliability-based capacity value estimation technique. Although the ELCC metric is the most accurate estimationtechnique, we show that a simpler capacity-factor-based approximation method can closely estimate the ELCC value. Without storage, the capacity value of CSP plants varies widely depending on the year and solar multiple. The average capacity value of plants evaluated ranged from 45%?90% with a solar multiple range of 1.0-1.5. When introducing thermal energy storage (TES), the capacity value ofthe CSP plant is more difficult to estimate since one must account for energy in storage. We apply a capacity-factor-based technique under two different market settings: an energy-only market and an energy and capacity market. Our results show that adding TES to a CSP plant can increase its capacity value significantly at all of the locations. Adding a single hour of TES significantly increasesthe capacity value above the no-TES case, and with four hours of storage or more, the average capacity value at all locations exceeds 90%.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages49
StatePublished - 2011

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A20-51253


  • capacity
  • capacity factor
  • concentrating solar power
  • CSP
  • effective load carrying capability
  • loss of load probability
  • thermal energy storage


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