CSP Systems Analysis - Final Project Report

Craig Turchi, Matthew Boyd, Devon Kesseli, Parthiv Kurup, Mark Mehos, Ty Neises, Michael Wagner, Timothy Wendelin, Prashant Sharan

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


The CSP Systems Analysis project was a three-year effort supporting the Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) Subprogram within the Solar Energy Technologies Office of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The goal of the CSP Systems Analysis project was to provide timely and accurate CSP cost data to the DOE and predict performance and cost for emerging technologies that may impact research directions and industry investment. The project consisted of six, mostly independent tasks. Major accomplishments over the three-year period of performance were as follows. The NREL team maintained current cost estimates for CSP technologies by annual updates to the cost input parameters within NREL's System Advisor Model (SAM). SAM is a performance and cost simulation software that includes technology models for the primary CSP technologies. During the period from 2016 to 2018, the estimated cost within SAM's default CSP molten-salt power tower technology dropped from 13.0 to 11.1 cent/kWh (real dollars without incentives). Power cycle models for the supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) Brayton Cycle were developed and made an option within SAM's molten-salt power tower model. These models were subsequently used to evaluate the cost reduction potential of alternative salts. The partial-cooling model was found to provide the greatest cost-reduction potential due to its combination of efficiency and temperature differential across the turbine and thermal energy storage (TES) system. These studies were documented in two journal articles.NREL's optical modeling software SolTrace and SolarPILOT were made more versatile and released as open-source software to the CSP community. These tools help researchers and developers to model and optimize the optical performance of CSP collector systems. The new features were highlighted in a recorded webinar that can be accessed from the NREL SAM website. New models for solar-thermal systems, that is, applications for solar industrial process heat, were developed, validated, and installed within SAM. The analysis includes a 2018 review of linear collectors in the market that are tailored for solar process heat applications. In 2018 the NREL team also developed an annual simulation for a direct steam generation system integrated with a latent-heat TES system. This analysis was submitted for journal publication. The NREL team continued to support the exchange of information and development of CSP guidelines within the international CSP community of SolarPACES. Much of the work under this project was presented at SolarPACES, including the development of a modeling checklist to help CSP stakeholders standardize the models used for estimating CSP performance and cost. The CSP Systems Analysis project also supported DOE requests for tracking and reporting programmatic targets for the CSP Subprogram.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages90
StatePublished - 2019

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5500-72856


  • concentrating solar power
  • CSP
  • SAM
  • system advisor model


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