Concentrating solar power (CSP) plants are just beginning to be deployed at scale. Although current costs are therefore high, cost reduction potentials are good and the ability to incorporate low-cost thermal energy storage will make them more important as the share of variable renewbales in total power generation rises.
The two main CSP systems in use today are parabolic trough and solar towers, but Stirling dish and linear Fresnel systems are also available. The weighted average cost of electricity for CSP varies between USD 0.20 in Asia and USD 0.25/kWh in Europe.The cost of electricity for parabolic trough systems typically range between USD 0.19/kWh to USD 0.38/kWh. Adding storage narrows this range to USD 0.20/kWh to USD 0.36/kWh. The industry has seen recently power purchase agreement (PPA) prices where no direct subsidies are supplied between USD 0.14/kWh to USD 0.19/kWh.
Parabolic trough plants without thermal energy storage have capital costs as low as USD 4 600/kW in OECD countries and may be as low as USD 3 500/kW for projects in developing countries. However, these plants have low capacity factors of between 0.2 and 0.3.CSP plants with thermal energy storage tend to have higher investment costs, but they allow higher capacity factors, dispatchability and typically lower LCOE. Solar tower plants can cost between USD 6 800 and USD 12 800/kW when energy storage is between 4 and 8 hours. These plants can achieve capacity factors of 0.40 to as high as 0.80.