Economic Justification of Concentrating Solar Power in High Renewable Energy Penetrated Power Systems

Ershun Du, Ning Zhang, Bri Mathias Hodge, Chongqing Kang, Benjamin Kroposki, Qing Xia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus Citations


Concentrating solar power (CSP) plants are able to provide both renewable energy and operational flexibility at the same time due to its thermal energy storage (TES). It is ideal generation to power systems lacking in flexibility to accommodate variable renewable energy (VRE) generation such as wind power and photovoltaics. However, its investment cost currently is too high to justify its benefit in terms of providing renewable energy only. In this paper we evaluate the economic benefit of CSP in high renewable energy penetrated power systems from two aspects: generating renewable energy and providing operational flexibility to help accommodating VRE. In order to keep the same renewable energy penetration level during evaluation, we compare the economic costs between the system with a high share of VRE and another in which some part of the VRE generation is replaced by CSP generation. The generation cost of a power system is analyzed through chronological operation simulation over a whole year. The benefit of CSP is quantified into two parts: (1) energy benefit—the saving investment of substituted VRE generation and (2) flexibility benefit—the reduction in operating cost due to substituting VRE with CSP. The break-even investment cost of CSP is further discussed. The methodology is tested on a modified IEEE RTS-79 system. The economic justifications of CSP are demonstrated in two practical provincial power systems with high penetration of renewable energy in northwestern China, Qinghai and Gansu, where the former province has massive inflexible thermal power plants but later one has high share of flexible hydro power. The results suggest that the CSP is more beneficial in Gansu system than in Qinghai. The levelized benefit of CSP, including both energy benefit and flexibility benefit, is about 0.177–0.191 $/kWh in Qinghai and about 0.238–0.300 $/kWh in Gansu, when replacing 5–20% VRE generation with CSP generation.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)649-661
Number of pages13
JournalApplied Energy
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Ltd

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5D00-71442


  • Break-even cost
  • Concentrating solar power
  • Economic justification
  • Operational flexibility
  • Variable renewable energy


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