Optimized Dispatch in a First-Principles Concentrating Solar Power Production Model

Michael Wagner, Alexandra Newman, Robert Braun, William Hamilton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus Citations


Concentrating solar power towers, which include a steam-Rankine cycle with molten salt thermal energy storage, is an emerging technology whose maximum effectiveness relies on an optimal operational and dispatch policy. Given parameters such as start-up and shut-down penalties, expected electricity price profiles, solar availability, and system interoperability requirements, this paper seeks a profit-maximizing solution that determines start-up and shut-down times for the power cycle and solar receiver, and the times at which to dispatch stored and instantaneous quantities of energy over a 48-h horizon at hourly fidelity. The mixed-integer linear program (MIP) is subject to constraints including: (i) minimum and maximum rates of start-up and shut-down, (ii) energy balance, including energetic state of the system as a whole and its components, (iii) logical rules governing the operational modes of the power cycle and solar receiver, and (iv) operational consistency between time periods. The novelty in this work lies in the successful integration of a dispatch optimization model into a detailed techno-economic analysis tool, specifically, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's System Advisor Model (SAM). The MIP produces an optimized operating strategy, historically determined via a heuristic. Using several market electricity pricing profiles, we present comparative results for a system with and without dispatch optimization, indicating that dispatch optimization can improve plant profitability by 5–20% and thereby alter the economics of concentrating solar power technology. While we examine a molten salt power tower system, this analysis is equally applicable to the more mature concentrating solar parabolic trough system with thermal energy storage.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)959-971
Number of pages13
JournalApplied Energy
StatePublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Ltd

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5500-67405


  • Concentrating Solar Power (CSP)
  • Dispatch optimization
  • Grid integration
  • Mixed-integer linear programming
  • Systems analysis
  • Thermal energy storage


Dive into the research topics of 'Optimized Dispatch in a First-Principles Concentrating Solar Power Production Model'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this