Observing the renewable energy transition from a European perspective

Archive for the category “CSP”

1 Billion CSP Debacle in Nevada

In December 2020, the Crescent Dunes CSP molten salt project in the desert of Nevada went bankrupt. It was a high-profile 110 MW generation and 1.1 GWh storage project, that had started operations in 2016. The output was far below expectations and the scheme was plagued by technical setbacks.


2008 — SolarReserve founded with seed capital from US Renewables
2008 — Tonopah Solar formed with Cobra and SolarReserve
2011 — Tonopah Solar accepts $737 million DOE loan guarantee
2015 — Crescent Dunes solar plant begins commercial operations
2015 — NV Energy under a 25-year PPA at $135/MWh
2016 — Plant taken offline for eight months because of a molten salt tank leak
2017 — Plant resumes operations
2018 — Technical and performance issues, DOE declares a default
2019 — More hot salt tank issues
2019 — Plant never achieved expected monthly output, according to BNEF
2019 — Plant achieved a 0.3% capacity factor in the Q2 of 2019, as per Platts
2019 — NV Energy terminated contract over performance failures
2019 — DOE takes over shuttered plant
2020 — SolarReserve assets sold off as part of a liquidation

The demise of Crescent Dunes is of course grist to the mill of the numerous opponents of renewable energy in the US. Paradoxically, however, the abandoning of the sinking CSP ship was to a large extent caused by the spectacular fall of prices of solar panels, where prices for parts, like mirrors, tracking gear, pipes, vessels, of a CSP plant didn’t. Sloppy American engineering, that comes hand in hand with the US slowly descending into Third World Status, will have played its part. The time that the US could conduct moon landings with stolen German engineers is long behind us. Now they don’t even have high speed rail, like Europe, China and Japan have and their astronomical trade deficit tells volumes. The country is currently kept afloat by the dollar reserve currency, enabling Washington to rake in ca. 40% unearned wealth. The NATO adventure in Ukraine, will spell doom to that last asset, too. The Crescent Dunes project is symbolic for the US itself: a has-been. Expect China and Russia to pull the plug on this WW2 wind fall empire.

[] – Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project
[] – Post bankruptcy, Crescent Dunes CSP plant owner wants project back online by year’s end
[] – DOE touts deal to recoup $200M from failed solar project

World’s Oldest CSP Plant Retired

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

Most of SEGS’s 1984 356 MW CSP thermal solar plants in the Californian desert are, or are to be retired. Some units have been replaced by PV-parks. In the US, solar power generation consisted of 3.3% solar thermal power, with the remaining 96.7% utility-scale solar PV. In 2015 the last US solar thermal plant was built. CSP enjoys more interest outside the US.

[] – World’s Longest-Operating Solar Thermal Facility Is Retiring Most Of Its Capacity

100 MW CSP Plant in China

The molten-salt concentrated solar power plant is located in Dunhuang, northwest China’s Gansu Province. The 100MW power plant, also called the “super mirror power plant”, works by using 12,000 mirrors that concentrate the sunlight onto a receiver at the top of a solar tower, which then heats the molten salt. It is designed to generate 390 million kWh of power annually, which can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 350,000 metric tons per year.

[] – CPC emblem displayed at solar thermal power plant shows romance in hardcore technology
[] – Super Mirror Power Plant in Gansu, NW China
[Google Maps] – Dunhuang, Jiuquan, Gansu

Application of CSP in Agriculture

[] – 36.6 MW integrated energy system based on CSP in Australia
[deepresource] – Growing Crops in the Australian Desert with Seawater

Solar Enhanced Oil Recovery

The oil industry uses steam to extract oil from the ground and uses natural gas to produce that steam. In the desert however you can produce steam much cheaper than with natural gas, namely with concentrated solar power (CSP). Through this technology it becomes economical to extract more oil than was possible with natural gas. The US 2009 startup Glasspoint uses that technology in California and Oman. Characteristic for Glasspoint is that it builds a greenhouse around its CSP-mirrors to shield it from desert elements and allow for cheaper, less robust CSP-structures. Glasspoint claims to be able to produce steam 2-3 times cheaper than with conventional CSP.

Sadly, Glasspoint didn’t survive the Corona-induced oil price slump and went bust this month. Shell and Exxon were not willing to put more money into the operation.

[] – Glasspoint
[] – Glasspoint, a Shell-funded solar enhanced-oil-recovery startup, is in liquidation

Dubai Announces Winning Tender for World’s Largest Solar Project

Dubai has awarded a 700 MW Solar CSP Contract For Mammoth Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park. The entire solar park is planned to produce 1 GW in 2020 and 5 GW in 2030. The tower will have a height of 260 meters.

[] – DEWA announces winning tender for world’s largest solar project

Israel Building Giant CSP Facility In Negev Desert

Tower height: 240 m
Power: 121 MW
Cost: $700 million

[] – Israel Building Concentrated Solar Power Facility In Negev Desert
[] – Ashalim Power Station

An Australian Visits Seville

Gemasolar is a concentrated solar power plant with a molten salt heat storage system. Gemasolar is the first commercial solar plant with central tower receiver and molten salt heat storage technology. It consists of a 30.5 hectares (75 acres) solar heliostat aperture area with a power island and 2,650 heliostats, each with a 120 square metres (1,300 sq ft) aperture area and distributed in concentric rings around the 140 metres (460 ft) high tower receiver. The total land use of the Heliostats is 195 hectares (480 acres).

One mirror is enough to power 10 households.

[] – Gemasolar Thermosolar Plant

Read more…

Desertec Facing Defeat


Desertec was the grandiose plan dating from 2009 to build large scale CSP plants in the Sahara, to provide Europe and the Maghreb with solar energy. Now several partners within the project are withdrawing, like HSH Nordbank, Bilfinger and E.ON. This could be the beginning of the end of the project. The remaining 35 international companies cannot agree upon how to continue the cooperation.


Editor: thank God! The last thing you want to invest your money in is a large scale solar project in the middle of the coming Caliphate. In the coming few years the price of solar panels could further decrease dramatically to as low as $160,- for a 400 Watt panel. This will bring solar energy within reach of nearly everybody. European governments should pass the message to its populations that individual households will have a responsibility to take care of at least a share of its energy needs by generating it itself. Within a time span of merely ten years most households owned a personal computer with internet connection. A similar development should happen with solar energy.


Two 11 m2 parabolic mirrors can generate up to 4.5 kw electricity and 11 kw heat.


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