Although installed capacity has been stagnant since 2013, Spain remains at the forefront of the world in the Concentrated Solar Power sector. In addition, the objectives for 2030 provide for the update of new GW and a resurgence of this technology, which is emerging as the best complement for photovoltaics.
The concentrating solar power installed in Spain has not changed since 2013. However, despite the fact that the 2.3 GW are stable, this last month, and all this 2019, is presented as a good year in production. In total, it has meant 2.67% of the total electricity in Spain in the first eight months, as explained by the Spanish Association for the Promotion of the Solar Thermal Industry (Protermosolar).
This increase in generation exceeds 4。1% in the previous record (in 2015), according to data from Red Eléctrica de España。 “This shows that the CSP plants are reliable and are not degrading, even though they are more than 10 years old。 During this time we have improved operational experience。 The downtime and start-up of the plants and the stoppages for maintenance have been reduced, ”says Luis Crespo, president of Protermosolar。
Despite the break, Spain, with its 2。3 GW, remains the first country in the world for installed power, and the sector expects to remain at the top。 In fact, the National Energy and Climate Plan 2021-2030 that the current acting Government sent a few months ago to Brussels contemplating the construction of new 5 GW by 2030。 For, Valeriano Ruiz, former Professor of Thermodynamics at the Higher School Engineers of Seville, there are several factors that can influence when getting these marked by sector。 The expert points to the Spanish institutional support as the main one, which «although it seems a bit presumptuous, is completely justified, because neither the Government nor the rest of the organizations should lose the leadership that we continue to have in these technologies and our companies and research centers keep your international prestige ”。
More broadly, the strategic plan that by 2030 the weight of renewable will be 42% on the final use of energy. The total clean power will reach 157 GW, of which 50 will be wind energy and 37 photovoltaic; 27 GW combined gas cycles; 16 GW hydraulic; 8 GW pumping; 7 GW Concentrated Solar Power, and 3 GW nuclear.
In the case of solar thermal energy, it would go from covering 1.6% of the total demand (with 2018 data) to 4.6%. The photovoltaic will be the one that grows the most, going from 2.9% to 19% (the wind power will do it from 18.2 to 34% and all the renewables will go from the current 38’1 to 74%). And the exponential growth of photovoltaics is difficult, which can help Concentrated Solar Power. So will Europe’s goal of unloading its economy by 2050. And it is that the goal that has been set by the Concentrated Solar Power sector is to support the photovoltaic and wind power production during the night – as basic energy – and, at the same time, replace natural gas plants.
“One of the advantages of this technology is the large capacity of energy reserves. This allows you to generate renewable energy once the sun goes down. It is the best we can do for the system; Be the source of support. The photovoltaic ceases to produce after 8:00 p.m., just when it detects demand peaks in homes. The solar thermal energy sales tanks store the heat produced by the mirrors for many hours and allow the network to dump energy up to 12 hours in a row. In summer it could be overturned at night until 10 am and in winter until 5 pm, ”says Crespo. In fact, during the past month of August, this technology has had points that exceeded 2% contribution to the electrical system from 21.00 to 6.00 in the morning.
“Renewables such as wind energy and photovoltaic depend on wind and sun. It can be adjusted to the needs of the demand, but only its supply to the network is cut off, that is, they cannot be generated when there is no resource. In the future decarbonized mix it will be necessary to cover the thermal gap, that is, that space between the base energy (the energy that is counted all the time, such as nuclear energy) and the maximum demand. The most stable renewable energy to adjust these gaps is hydraulics. But this stability also has biomass or thermoelectric power, ”they say from the Association of Renewable Energy Companies (APPA).
Crespo nuances: “Concentrated Solar Power energy fluctuations in the electricity grid. It has a lot of mechanical inertia, so it is able to respond to these electrical gaps. In other words, to square those differences between demand peaks of 40 GW at a valley hour in which only 25 GW is needed. And also do it for a lot of hours».
Among the challenges facing the sector, it should be noted, first, that there are new energy auctions。 However, for now they are not expected。 The second is very related to this and is its price。 In the last auctions, this technology has not scratched any MW and the costs of wind power and photovoltaic are much lower。 The cost of MWh in solar thermal is around 70 euros per MWh, while photovoltaics today stands at 30 euros。
In fact, photovoltaics today is the cheapest of technologies, even more than any fossil alternative. “In the last nine years, wind energy has reduced its price up to 60% and photovoltaic 80%. They have developed because they have opted for them, ”they say from APPA. But be careful because “when photovoltaic storage is added, prices change and exceed 100 euros per MWh,” says José María González Moya, general director of the Association.
In this sense, what the Association claims is that for the new auctions by 2030 only the price of the MWh should not be taken into account “and less now that there is a surplus, that is, that we are paying a higher price than it costs generate energy. A few years ago there is no tariff deficit. We must also bear in mind that photovoltaics will grow, because it is the cheapest energy, but it will need support technologies that guarantee stability in the network. Biomass or Among the challenges facing the sector, it should be noted, first, that there are new energy auctions. However, for now they are not expected. The second is very related to this and is its price. In the last auctions, this technology has not scratched any MW and the costs of wind and photovoltaic are much lower. The cost of MWh in solar thermal is around 70 euros per MWh, while photovoltaics today stands at 30 euros.
In fact, photovoltaics today is the cheapest of technologies, even more than any fossil alternative。 “In the last nine years, wind has reduced its price up to 60% and photovoltaic 80%。 They have developed because they have opted for them, ”they say from APPA。 But be careful because “when photovoltaic storage is added, prices change and exceed 100 euros per MWh,” says José María González Moya, general director of the Association。
In this sense, what the Association claims is that for the new auctions by 2030 only the price of the MWh should not be taken into account “and less now that there is a surplus, that is, that we are paying a higher price than it costs generate energy. A few years ago there is no tariff deficit. We must also bear in mind that photovoltaics will grow, because it is the cheapest energy, but it will need support technologies that guarantee stability in the network. Biomass or thermoelectric power plants are more expensive but stable”. “Our argument is that it is the cheapest technology when there is no sun. We will be able to compete very soon with natural gas, which, although now cheap, will increase its price. Also for the cost derived from its greenhouse gas emissions. The forecasts state that in 2025 we will be more competitive than this fossil fuel, ”says Crespo. For example, in the last electric auction held in Dubai, the lowest price for this technology, 60 euros per MWh, has been marked, unlocking the natural gas auction.
There is still another challenge if this technology is to become a backup: incorporate storage。 Because in Spain, of the 50 plants in operation, only one third “has storage systems。 This is because when the first plants started to be built in 2007 it was cheaper not to have these systems to compete with photovoltaics。 Since then, it has been understood that in the new energy map, this technology will be complementary and not competition。 The storage tanks of the plants could also be used to capture the spills of photovoltaics, avoiding investments of more than 15,000 million euros in battery systems for these plants, ”adds Crespo。 As said before, when photovoltaics are added batteries today the price skyrockets。
Another possibility is that the plants hybridize with biomass or photovoltaic. “The concentrating solar power is manageable. CSP plants can store the solar thermal energy achieved in the first part of the process, a technique similar to that of a coffee thermos. In addition, it is hybridizable with other complementary energy forms, such as biomass, ”says Ruiz.
And another one, to resort to new modular and scalable designs, “in this way, the towers could be just over 100 meters high with heliostat fields equivalent to 30/40 MW. That would standardize their design and that of the receivers, ”they say from Prtotermosolar.