Renewables, Solar

EPRI Report: SW solar project

By Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Nexant, Inc., Black & Veatch
New Mexico Central Station Solar Power: Summary Report

The role of central solar in utility portfolios is quickly expanding, making integration of the variable power source into the electric grid more urgent.

During her presentation at the Renewable Energy World Conference & Expo, March 10-13, Cara Libby, project manager, Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), said solar photovoltaic (PV) grew by 50 percent and solar thermal by 15 percent last year—and she expects that rate to increase in the next few years.

Libby, who assesses the feasibility of utility-scale solar power installations, said utility planners are uncertain about technology options when it comes to firming the output of the solar plant and making it more dispatchable. She said energy storage options and “hybrid” plants – solar teamed with fossil-fired generation – are two of the areas EPRI is researching. EPRI has also found that other hybrid solar options show promise, too, like low temperature geothermal resources.

The “New Mexico Central Station Solar Power: Summary Report” provides a comprehensive evaluation of the solar technologies, plant designs, and plant sites that could be developed for a 50 to 500 MW solar power plant in New Mexico.

Parabolic trough was identified as the most mature technology and also the most economical. By integrating thermal storage or hybridization into the plant designs the report found an increase in the reliability and dispatchability of the plant while the cost of energy was slightly lowered.