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Concentrated Solar Power's Contribution to the Grid: U.S. Case Study

Posted on the 02 June 2013 by Derick Ajumni
Concentrated Solar Power's Contribution to the Grid: U.S. Case Study
The electric power grid in the United States is a gigantic interconnected system of cables used to carry and distribute electricity from the power plant to the required area. Concentrating solar power (CSP) is a technology that uses mirrors to focus or
reflect sunlight unto a centrally positioned receiver. This receiver collects the focused photons of light and converts them into heat. This heat is used to produce energy through another technology termed the 'steam turbine'.
The steam turbine technology works by using the focused heat to pre-heat a working fluid which spins a turbine that powers an engine -- drivng a generator to produce electricity. CSP has long been viewed as a technology that can provide utility scale renewable energy to help the power grid reach as much of the population as necessary. In that line of thinking, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) calculated the actual value concentrating solar power plants can bring to the electric grid.
For this study, a commercial production cost model called PLEXOS was used to analyze the California electric grid managed by a California Independent System Operator (CAISO). "We created a baseline scenario, then added four types of generators -- a baseload generator with constant output, a photovoltaic system, a CSP plant providing dispatchable energy -- or power that can be turned on or off on demand -- and another CSP plant providing both energy and operating reserves." said NREL Senior Analyst Paul Denholm (ref).
The analysis demonstrated how valuable CSP generates power when demand on the grip is at its highest, and how easy it is to be turned off when power demand drops. Its ability to provide power as a reserve was the most intriguing point of this research. The study will help plan process of combining CSP and utility systems.
Article Source: NREL
Photo Source: bright source energy

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