Optimizing Dispatch for a Concentrated Solar Power Tower

Michael Wagner, William Hamilton, Alexandra Newman, Jolyon Dent, Charles Diep, Robert Braun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus Citations


Concentrating solar power (CSP) systems employ a sophisticated thermal receiver, power cycle, and a heliostat field, comprised of thousands of mirrors spread over hundreds of acres of land, and are most cost-effective with relatively large quantities of energy storage which can be scheduled for dispatch. We exercise an existing optimization model that maximizes revenue over a year-long time horizon, solved using a standard 48-h look-ahead policy at hourly fidelity on a CSP system under development in California. The system employs molten salt power tower technology with a 150 MWe (net) turbine, eight hours of thermal storage at full load, and a solar field that provides 1.75 times the rated turbine thermal power. The model considers system configuration and interoperability aspects, such as storage tank size, production capacities, and ramp rates, and determines decisions that expedite financing, permitting, and plant design. Relative to results achieved via industry practice, the existing optimization model reduces the number of power cycle (i.e., turbine) start-up events by 86.4%, thereby improving net revenue by more than 8.5% annually; this corresponds to an approximately $140 M increase in net revenue over the lifetime of the plant, taking a step towards advancing the long-term economic viability of large-scale renewable energy systems. Sensitivity analysis on uncertain parameter values provides insight regarding those values that influence profit most significantly.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1198-1211
Number of pages14
JournalSolar Energy
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Ltd

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5500-72838


  • Concentrated solar power
  • Dispatch scheduling
  • Optimization applications


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