BrightSource Energy is adding molten salt storage capacity to three concentrating solar power (CSP) plants it is building for Southern California Edison (SCE). The additional capacity will also dispense with the need for one of the seven 200MW power stations BrightSource had agreed to build in the original contract.
Details of the renegotiated Power Purchase Agreements have remained confidential, although BrightSource’s CEO John Woolard has revealed that the company’s SolarPLUS storage technology is being used and when work is finished – scheduled for 2016 or 2017 – it will be the largest energy storage contract anywhere in the world.
Storage capabilities will extend operations at the three sites by at least two hours a day and partially solve the intermittency problems that have started emerging as more solar is added to the electrical grid. “You start to get all the reliability attributes of a dispatchable plant, and you get the increased capacity factor,” Woolard said. “…Reliability is fundamental to the ability to do anything meaningful with renewables at any scale that matters.”
In recent months, cost concerns have seen several high-profile projects switch from CSP to PV, including the huge proposed Blythe and Palen installations in California. However, Woolard believes that despite rapid price declines, PV is a long way off competing with BrightSource’s tower projects, which boast capacity factors over 40%.