Combining Simulation and Optimization to Derive Operating Policies for a Concentrating Solar Power Plant

Jesse Wales, Alexander Zolan, William Hamilton, Alexandra Newman, Michael Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus Citations


Optimizing short-term decisions over a rolling horizon and/or using deterministic penalties to capture system stochasticity can lead to myopic policies that fail to consider unplanned events and their long-term adverse effects. We present a methodology that integrates an off-line optimization model with a simulation procedure to determine the profitability of different operating strategies; specifically, the latter is used to generate additional constraints for the former when failures occur according to system component operating lifetimes that (i) are subject to exogenous uncertainty, and (ii) may degrade more quickly under specific operating conditions. We use the feedback provided by the simulation model in a parametric analysis to obtain penalties that can be used in short-term operations scheduling to maximize the long-term revenues obtained by the optimization model. We apply this research to a concentrating solar power plant; our results show that the methodology can be used to choose an operating policy that balances maximizing profit while accounting for maintenance costs. Integrating the optimization model with a simulation procedure reveals that aggressive prices for cycling yield about 55% fewer startups and 30% fewer failures compared to using a more typical start-up operating strategy, and can save hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in repair costs over the lifetime of the plant.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)119-150
Number of pages32
JournalOR Spectrum
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5700-73662


  • Concentrating solar power (CSP)
  • Maintenance simulation
  • Monte Carlo
  • Optimized dispatch


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