Concentrating solar power can beat multicrystalline silicon on cost in 2020

The opening of the Ivanpah concentrating solar power (CSP) plant has brought renewed interest in the technology, which produces electricity by focusing the sun’s rays to produce intense heat.

However, the crash of photovoltaic (PV) module prices will cause the CSP market to decline from 2.45 GW in 2013 to 2.0 GW in 2018. Nonetheless, the technology has the potential to bounce back and beat multicrystalline silicon (mc-Si) in levelised cost of electricity (LCOE), according to Lux Research.

“CSP has fallen by the wayside of the solar industry after attracting huge amounts of government and investor money in 2010 and 2011. But the industry can still bring the technology back to the forefront for utility-scale, stand-alone power applications,” said Ed Cahill, Lux Research Associate and the lead author of the report titled, “Turning Up the Heat on Advanced Concentrating Solar Components.”

“Advanced components and thermal energy storage that enable higher operating temperatures could allow CSP to beat PV systems on LCOE by 6 per cent to 33 per cent in some of the sunniest areas,” he added.

Lux Research analysts evaluated CSP technologies and economics in order to discover optimal models. Among their findings:

Thermal energy storage (TES) are among the top targets for cost reduction. Today’s CSP system costs are 37 per cent to 60 per cent higher than mc-Si without TES – and 300 per cent to 600 per cent higher with 14 hours of TES. Storage is among the largest portions of the system cost stack, and will be a primary target for advanced system components.

Fresnel reflector systems are best for small projects. Linear Fresnel reflectors with molten salt heat transfer fluid can undercut mc-Si’s LCOE by 6 per cent and have the most potential to dominate smaller CSP projects and alternative applications like integrated solar combined cycle (ISCC), industrial heat, enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and water Solar Intelligence service.

About Lux Research

Lux Research provides strategic advice and ongoing intelligence for emerging technologies. Leaders in business, finance and government rely on us to help them make informed strategic decisions. Through our unique research approach focused on primary research and our extensive global network, we deliver insight, connections and competitive advantage to our clients. Visit for more information.

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