Spanish solar thermal group models 85% renewable energy plan

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Scaling up CSP capacity would not only help reduce emissions and provide the necessary electricity, and help renewables meet 85% of Spain’s supply.

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Gemasolar and DESERTEC both believe that a series of similar plants can be scaled up to provide much larger populations with renewable energy.
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Spain’s concentrated solar power association, Protermosolar has published a report that models a plan to achieve 85 per cent renewable energy by 2030 using a combination of wind, solar PV, and concentrated solar power (CSP) technologies.

The association believes would also reduce emissions by 92% by cutting coal and nuclear out of the electricity system altogether.

The report was developed in response to a similar report published by a “Committee of Experts” commissioned by the former conservative Spanish Government designed to inform the country’s Energy Transition and Climate Change Law, which minimised the role of renewable energy in favour of keeping coal and nuclear and scaling up combined-cycle gas generation.

The Protermosolar report – which was based not so much on computer models but on projections made from actual generation and demand data – posits a total of 106 GW worth of renewable energy, including 33 GW worth of wind, 25 GW of solar PV, 20 GW of CSP, and 5 GW of other renewable energies.

Another 23 GW worth of hydro and pumped-hydro, 15.8 GW worth of combined-cycle gas, and 8.5 GW of co-generation would fill out the total electricity mix.

Comparing the two reports, Protermosolar’s plan would see a 60% reduction of carbon emissions compared to the Committee of Experts plan (in other words, 60% reduction in emissions on top ofthe reductions proposed by the Committee of Experts), bringing the total carbon emissions reduction to 92%.

More specifically, carbon dioxide emissions would only reach 4,991 kt compared to the 12,593 kt projected by the Committee of Experts.

Additionally, the Committee of Experts plan would not actually meet the recently-approved European Union target of a 32% renewable energy contribution to total energy consumption.

However, the Protermosolar plan would not only meet the EU target but would also reduce the amount of annual curtailed renewable energy – from 4.6 terawatt-hours annually in the Committee of Experts plan to only 830 gigawatt-hours annually.

The trick was to decrease the amount of solar PV used in the Committee of Experts plan from around 47 GW down to a cap of 25, while scaling up CSP from its current level of 2.3 GW to 20 GW.

All of this would be combined with around 15 hours’ worth of thermal storage, which would store energy during the day and be fed back into the country’s electricity grid at night.

The plan also includes the expectation of “reasonable” improvements to the renewable energy technologies, resulting in a range of average costs – €20/MWh for hydro, €40/MWh for wind, €35/MWh for solar PV, and €55/MWh for CSP.

GTM Research, who spoke to Protermosolar’s president, Dr. Luis Crespo Rodríguez, highlighted the unusually low expected cost for CSP, comparing it to Lazard’s most recent levelized-cost range of between $90 and $181/MWh (or between €77 to €155/MWh).

However, Rodríguez told GTM that he thought it was a reasonable expectation, and pointed to a recent project being developed by ACWA Power which was given a tariff of $73/MWh last September (or around €62/MWh), adding that “We think that with a 17-gigawatt market in Spain, having a price of €55 is not excessive.”

Protermosolar’s study shows that scaling up CSP capacity would not only help reduce emissions and provide the necessary electricity, it would also make a significant contribution to the Spanish economy – to the tune of €62,000 million, or €3.5 million per MW across 17.7 GW.

Construction of so much CSP would also create 88,500 jobs per year, and an additional 1,770 jobs per year for operations.

Author’s note: Article source was a Spanish to English translation of the Protermosolar press release, found here.

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10 Comments
  1. Dragan Babovic 5 months ago

    How exactly cutting nuclear out of electricity system reduces carbon emissions? That blander in the report shows that it is a lobbying effort rather than a genuine analysts. It also lacks comparison in price between PV+storage or Wind+storage and CSP. The clear advantage of CSP is that it does not require storage, which is made by depleteable resources, which exploitation comes with heavy pollution and high energy utilization.

    • Roger Blomquist 5 months ago

      Exactly. There is every reason to keep nuclear, which emits no CO2 or methane in electricity generation. Just what you’d expect from a solar power industry group. The only thing they get right is that excess intermittent wind and solar electricity, when the sun is shining must be curtailed. Concentrated solar does include some buffering, but only on a daily basis. Without vast amounts of expensive storage, this would be a recipe for incessant blackouts. Spain would end up with millions of emergency gasoline generators emitting CO2 and other pollutants to make up for a grid that no longer provides reliable power.

      • Alastair Leith 4 months ago

        “but only on a daily basis”

        Molten salts are heated to ~650 ºC and lose ~1 ºC a day in thermal storage. How is that only daily? Like all storage the cost of storage is inversely proportional to the volume of energy cycled through it over a unit of time, say one year. That is the main reason for cycling it daily, rather than once a week or once a month, not any inherent non-ability to store it for a month.

        But for seasonal scale storage i.e. long periods of storage and weeks worth of generation from whatever output capacity it has, off-river pumped hydro wins on price most places in the world with large volumes of water available to fill the dams in the first place and account for evaporation (which isn’t huge for small “turkey nest” dam sites)

      • Steven Gannon 4 months ago

        There have been no outages in SA for over 18 months, despite them running at up to 80% on a regular basis. The “reliability” meme is a politically confected fraud.

  2. Robert Comerford 5 months ago

    Taking nuclear out of the mix does not reduce emissions.
    If they want to argue their case on other grounds they should do so.
    Storage is the solution, CSP is but one answer.

    • Alastair Leith 4 months ago

      The point was it was a 100% RE solution, meaning retiring of coal and nuclear.

      Nuclear increases the system LCoE when RE penetration is high because it doesn’t pair well with wind and PV, nuclear, like coal and CCGT, likes to run with a unvarying base load. While on paper some plants are designed to ramp, the reality is in Europe they do not ramp them, it increases the maintain costs, they can only ramp art certain times in the fuel cycle and to pay these behemoth projects of they’d just prefer to be left alone to run at 90% or higher C.F.

      • Robert Comerford 4 months ago

        It doesn’t really matter that it just runs continuously as it is not producing CO2 and requiring trains loads of fuel to be delivered every day. These behemoth power plants should not be built anymore. Small, flexible, distributed plants would suit far better. The cost of nuclear is more about politics and unwarranted fear than what it costs to produce energy.
        However my point is, and remains that this was written from an anti- nuclear stance as part of their self promotion not about removing CO2.

  3. Alastair Leith 4 months ago

    So all the comments so far are from nuclear energy advocates. A bit unusual for RenewEconomy, word must be out on their grapevine. As usual the tone is condescending and aggressive right from the get go.

    • Steven Gannon 4 months ago

      Good job.

  4. charles frogg 4 months ago

    What does Spain and Australia have in common???? Exhorantly high electricity prices that has seen all Spanish industry relocate to France where electricity prices are 75% lower and average Spanish people freeze to death in winter because they cannot afford to heat their homes.

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