Dispatch Optimization of Concentrating Solar Power with Utility-Scale Photovoltaics

William T. Hamilton, Mark A. Husted, Alexandra M. Newman, Robert J. Braun, Michael J. Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus Citations


Concentrating solar power (CSP) tower technologies capture thermal radiation from the sun utilizing a field of solar-tracking heliostats. When paired with inexpensive thermal energy storage (TES), CSP technologies can dispatch electricity during peak-market-priced hours, day or night. The cost of utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) systems has dropped significantly in the last decade, resulting in inexpensive energy production during daylight hours. The hybridization of PV and CSP with TES systems has the potential to provide continuous and stable energy production at a lower cost than a PV or CSP system alone. Hybrid systems are gaining popularity in international markets as a means to increase renewable energy portfolios across the world. Historically, CSP-PV hybrid systems have been evaluated using either monthly averages of hourly PV production or scheduling algorithms that neglect the time-of-production value of electricity in the market. To more accurately evaluate a CSP-PV-battery hybrid design, we develop a profit-maximizing mixed-integer linear program (H) that determines a dispatch schedule for the individual sub-systems with a sub-hourly time fidelity. We present the mathematical formulation of such a model and show that it is computationally expensive to solve. To improve model tractability and reduce solution times, we offer techniques that: (1) reduce the problem size, (2) tighten the linear programming relaxation of (H) via reformulation and the introduction of cuts, and (3) implement an optimization-based heuristic (that can yield initial feasible solutions for (H) and, at any rate, yields near-optimal solutions). Applying these solution techniques results in a 79% improvement in solve time, on average, for our 48-h instances of (H); corresponding solution times for an annual model run decrease by as much as 93%, where such a run consists of solving 365 instances of (H), retaining only the first 24 h’ worth of the solution, and sliding the time window forward 24 h. We present annual system metrics for two locations and two markets that inform design practices for hybrid systems and lay the groundwork for a more exhaustive policy analysis. A comparison of alternative hybrid systems to the CSP-only system demonstrates that hybrid models can almost double capacity factors while resulting in a 30% improvement related to various economic metrics.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)335-369
Number of pages35
JournalOptimization and Engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5500-75367


  • Concentrating solar power (CSP)
  • CSP-PV hybrid systems
  • Dispatch optimization
  • Grid integration
  • Lithium-ion battery
  • Mixed-integer linear programming (MILP)
  • Photovoltaics (PV)
  • System analysis


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