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Solar based large scale power plants: what is the best option?



There are very few published data comparing performance and cost of thermal and photovoltaic (PV) based solar power generations. With recent intense technology and business developments there is a need to establish a comparison between these two solar energy options. We have developed a simple model to compare electricity cost using these two options without any additional fuel source of hybridization. Capital along with operation and maintenance (O&M) costs and other parameters from existing large scale solar farms are used to reflect actual project costs. To compete with traditional sources of power generation, solar technologies need to provide dispatchable electric power to respond to demand during peak hours. Different solutions for energy storage are available. In spite of their high capital cost, adding energy storage is considered a better long term solution than hybrid solar systems for large scale power plants. For this reason, a comparison between the two solar options is also provided that include energy storage. Although electricity storage is more expensive than thermal storage, PV power remains a competitive option. Expenses related to O&M in solar thermal plant are about ten times higher than PV, an important factor resulting in higher energy cost. Based on data from proven commercial technologies, this study showed that PV holds a slight advantage even when energy storage is included. Copyright © 2010 Crown in the right of Canada. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.