Disclaimer. After nearly 40 years managing money for some of the largest life offices and investment managers in the world, I think I have something to offer. These days I'm retired, and I can't by law give you advice. While I do make mistakes, I try hard to do my analysis thoroughly, and to make sure my data are correct (old habits die hard!) Also, don't ask me why I called it "Volewica". It's too late, now.

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Friday, May 13, 2016

Baseload solar at 6c per kWh

The company behind the Crescent Dunes concentrated solar power plant (which I talked about here) has put out a paper which claims that its technology can produce dispatchable electricity at  US 6 cents per kWh.  This is lower than coal and peaking gas power plants.

 A German – and formerly majority Australian owned – developer of concentrated solar power plants with molten salt storage says it can get the cost of electricity from a utility-scale version of its technology, with 15 hours of thermal energy storage, down to between 5 and 7 cents (US) per kilowatt-hour.

Its Direct Molten Salt (DMS) technology has been used at the 110MW Crescent Dunes power tower in Nevada US.

According to the paper, the DMS CSP technology can, at a scale of 50MW with 14-hour energy storage, deliver electricity prices of 9.3-12.2 US¢/kWh – a cost “already below today ́s average cost of fossil power generation.”

The larger the plant’s capacity, the lower the cost of electricity falls. So a 100MW DMS plant with around 15 hours storage could deliver electricity price levels of 6.4-8.5 US¢/kWh – “lower even than (new) coal,” the paper says. And with its large and scalable molten salt energy storage systems, the use of expensive diesel generators to cover late-night demand peaks would also be mitigated.

Read more here.

In fact dispatchable power is more useful than baseload, because it can be released when it is needed.  Plants producing baseload power can't easily dial up or down output in response to demand.  This often leads to electricity being "shed" which is wasteful and expensive.

The shape of the future generation grid is becoming clearer:

  • solar, via panels on rooftops as well as utility scale solar farms
  • wind
  • CSP
  • high-voltage DC lines to connect windy and sunny places to centres of demand.
  • some battery storage to stabilise the grid (its response time is much quicker than peaking power plants)

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