Skip to main content

The Cost of Concentrated Solar Power

From today's edition of Electric Power Daily (no link):
EPRI estimates that a 500-MW solar plant would cost about $1.5 billion, or $3,000/kW, Bedard said. A just-built 64-MW solar plant in Nevada cost about $4,000/kW, he said. Nevada Power is buying the output from the Nevada Solar One project.

EPRI has had little involvement with solar power in the last decade, Bedard said. But climate change and renewable portfolio standards have renewed utility interest in the technology.

Currently, electricity from a CSP plant costs about 16 cents/kWh, compared with 7 cents/kWh for wind and 5.5 cents/kWh for coal, he said.
That's a serious chunk of change.


Anonymous said…
This is about the same estimated overnight capital cost range as new nuclear in the Keystone Center's recent report.
Rod Adams said…
I wrote a blog post about Nevada Solar One earlier this month. You can find it at Nevada Solar One Starts Up.

The real numbers provide a different story than the advertised ones. The plant has a name plate capacity of 64MWe, but an expected annual energy production of just 124 million kilowatt hours per year. If you divide that number by 8760 (hours in a year) you find that the average production will be just a bit more than 14 MWe (CF = 22%).

In contrast, if you built a nuclear plant with the same capacity, you would expect that it would produce approximately 475 million kilowatt hours per year assuming that the plant achieves a fairly modest 85% capacity factor - well below the current fleet average for the American nuclear power industry.

According to a recent report produced for Congress, the US Navy has estimated that the cost difference between a cruiser sized vessel powered with four new LM2500 type engines (with a total power output of a about 130 MW) and one powered with a proven PWR steam plant (essentially one of the two plants that now power aircraft carriers) is on the order of 600-800 million dollars.

This is not firm cost data and takes some interpretation, but it sure looks to me like there are available, proven, operating nuclear plants that are being built in the present tense that can come in for approximately the same cost per name plate capacity as a concentrating solar system.

The advantage that the nuclear plant would have is that it could produce and sell almost 4 times as many kilowatt hours per year.

I am also quite sure that there are ways to reduce the unit costs through increased production rates by spreading fixed costs over a larger number of plants than the one or two a year that are now being built for the Navy.

Only one problem - the Navy would have to have some encouragement to begin allowing its contractors to seek additional customers.

BTW - go ahead and make the "enrichment" argument if you wish. There is no reason at all for a commercial version of a carrier sized reactor plant to use HEU - the NS Savannah showed that a reactor large enough for a surface ship could do quite well with 5% enrichment even using what we knew about reactor fuel designs in the 1950s.
Regarding "The Cost of Concentrated Solar Power" (2007-06-28), there really is no no need for concentrating solar power in the US because there is a simple mature technology that can deliver huge amounts of clean energy without any of the headaches of concentrating solar power.

I refer to 'Nuclear Power' (NP), the technique of amplifying a neutron flux through the fission of heavy metals to create heat, and then using the heat to raise steam and drive turbines and generators, just like a conventional power station. It is possible to run NP plants on demand so that electricity generation may continue through the night or on cloudy days, or when the Russians decide to cut off the gas. This technology has been generating electricity successfully in California since 1957 and six million Californians currently get their electricity from this source. NP plants are now being planned or built in many parts of the world.

NP works best near cool shores and, of course, these are not always nearby! But it is feasible and economic to decrease outlet temperatures using highly-efficient 'natural draft' cooling towers. With plant efficiency losses at about 3% per cooling tower, NP plants may be placed anywhere in the US. NP plants at existing coal plant sites could easily meet the entire current US demand for electricity.

In the recent 'EIA Electric Power Annual' report commissioned by the US government, it is estimated that NP electricity, which does not need to be imported from exotic locales, is already one of the cheapest sources of electricity in the United States, including the cost of cooling. A large-scale cooling tower manufacturing infrastructure has also been proposed by Alstom as a means of optimising the use of NP throughout the world.

Further information about NP may be found at and . Copies of the EIA Electric Power Annual report may be downloaded from . The many problems associated with concentrating solar power are summarised at .

For those of you who aren't blog administrators, this is a parody.

KenG said…

That's brilliant. The only part lacking was that you didn't run fast and loose with the facts like the CSP fanatics. Since their claim of "half million
Californians" being powered by CSP is true only for a moment at peak generation and only for home use, not commercial/industrial, you could have easily said 15 or 20 million people get their power from nuclear.
Solar Power said…
Of course to use nuclear power is much easier now then solar power, but solar power is absolutely harmless. There should be a way to use it effectively, just we need some time to investigate it. Using of solar power has a big future in my opinion.

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.


The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.

What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

Why Nuclear Plant Closures Are a Crisis for Small Town USA

Nuclear plants occupy an unusual spot in the towns where they operate: integral but so much in the background that they may seem almost invisible. But when they close, it can be like the earth shifting underfoot., the Gannett newspaper that covers the Lower Hudson Valley in New York, took a look around at the experience of towns where reactors have closed, because the Indian Point reactors in Buchanan are scheduled to be shut down under an agreement with Gov. Mario Cuomo.

From sea to shining sea, it was dismal. It wasn’t just the plant employees who were hurt. The losses of hundreds of jobs, tens of millions of dollars in payrolls and millions in property taxes depressed whole towns and surrounding areas. For example:

Vernon, Vermont, home to Vermont Yankee for more than 40 years, had to cut its municipal budget in half. The town closed its police department and let the county take over; the youth sports teams lost their volunteer coaches, and Vernon Elementary School lost th…