What Makes CSP Unique

A distinctive characteristic of CSP is that, when deployed with thermal energy storage, it can produce electricity on demand— providing a dispatchable source of renewable energy. Therefore, it can provide electricity whenever needed by an electric utility to meet consumer demand, performing like a traditional base-load power plant. CSP with thermal energy storage allows for more use of other renewable energy sources that provide variable or intermittent generation (such as wind and solar photovoltaic). Another distinction of CSP is its ability to integrate with fossil-based generation sources in "hybrid" configurations. Hybrid systems combine traditional fossil-fuel-powered plants with emissions-free CSP technology to improve the performance of both systems.

The five DOE-supported CSP projects are located in areas identified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory as the most economically suitable lands available for deploying large-scale concentrating solar power plants in the southwest United States.

CSP is a key enabling technology in the "all-of-the-above" energy strategy for the United States. This report focuses on the current breakthroughs of CSP deployment in the United States and three key CSP technologies facilitating this shift to clean energy. It also highlights five commercial-scale United States CSP plants that demonstrate the capabilities of these cutting-edge technologies.

The three key technologies are

 Parabolic Trough

 Power Tower

 Thermal Energy Storage

The five CSP projects profiled are

  • Crescent Dunes—Tonopah, Nevada
  • Genesis—Blythe, California
  • Ivanpah—Dry Lake, California
  • Mojave—near Barstow, California
  • Solana—near Gila Bend, Arizona

Solana, Photo Credit: Abengoa Solar, Inc.

Genesis, Photo Credit: NextEra Energy Sources, LLC

Mojave, Photo Credit: Abengoa Solar, Inc.

Three DOE-supported CSP Technologies