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Title: Exploring the Potential Competitiveness of Utility-Scale Photovoltaics plus Batteries with Concentrating Solar Power, 2015–2030

Declining costs of both solar photovoltaics (PV) and battery storage have raised interest in the creation of “solar-plus-storage” systems to provide dispatchable energy and reliable capacity. There has been limited deployment of PV-plus-energy storage systems (PV+ESS), and the actual configuration and performance of these systems for dispatchable energy are in the early stages of being defined. In contrast, concentrating solar power with thermal energy storage (CSP+TES) has been deployed at scale with the proven capability of providing a dispatchable, reliable source of renewable generation. A key question moving forward is how to compare the relative costs and benefits of PV+ESS and CSP+TES. While both technologies collect solar radiation and produce electricity, they do so through very different mechanisms, which creates challenges for direct comparison. Nonetheless, it is important to establish a framework for comparison and to identify cost and performance targets to aid meeting the nation’s goals for clean energy deployment. In this paper, we provide a preliminary assessment comparing the cost of energy from CSP+TES and PV+ESS that focuses on a single metric: levelized cost of energy (LCOE). We begin by defining the configuration of each system, which is particularly important for PV+ESS systems. We then examine a rangemore » of projected cost declines for PV, batteries, and CSP. Finally, we summarize the estimated LCOE over a range of configuration and cost estimates. We conclude by acknowledging that differences in these technologies present challenges for comparison using a single performance metric. We define systems with similar configurations in some respects. In reality, because of inherent differences in CSP+TES and PV+ESS systems, they will provide different grid services and different value. For example, depending on its configuration, a PV+ESS system may provide additional value over CSP+TES by providing more flexible operation, including certain ancillary services and the ability to store off-peak grid energy. Alternatively, direct thermal energy storage allows a greater capture of solar energy, reducing the potential for curtailments in very high solar scenarios. So while this analysis evaluates a key performance metric (cost per unit of generation) under a range of cost projections, additional analysis of the value per unit of generation will be needed to comprehensively assess the relative competitiveness of solar energy systems deployed with energy storage.« less
 [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [2]
  1. National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States)
  2. Dept. of Energy (DOE), Washington DC (United States). Office of Solar Energy Technologies Program
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Solar Energy Technologies Office (EE-4S)
Country of Publication:
United States
29 ENERGY PLANNING, POLICY, AND ECONOMY levelized cost of energy; LCOE; solar; solar thermal; CSP; PV; battery; storage; learning curve; experience curve; progress ratio