New 200 MW Concentrating Solar Power project announcement in Colorado

This week CSP Today gained exclusive access with Kevin Smith, CEO of Solar Reserve ahead of him speaking at CSP Today USA 2012 on 27-28 June in Las Vegas.

There is currently 1200 MW of Concentrating Solar Power underway which demonstrates a significant achievement for the industry. What do you foresee as the next industry milestone and how will this be achieved in the short to midterm future?

Kevin Smith: The Concentrated Solar Power industry is really leading the charge in the renewable energy space with its ability to solve the number one problem that other renewable energy technologies such as wind and PV suffer – intermittent power generation.

Intermittent power puts significant strain on the electricity grid and requires the addition of natural gas back up to provide power when a PV or wind plant are unable to operate. Utilities value firm, reliable electricity supply, and CSP, with its ability to store energy, can provide a more predictable generation supply. SolarReserve’s technology, which is the market leading solar thermal technology, has integrated energy storage with the capacity to store 10-15 hours of full-load energy, enabling SolarReserve to deliver solar energy on demand, day or night.

I see the next CSP industry milestone as the full recognition by utilities of the value that CSP with storage provides over any renewable energy technologies. With a number of PV and wind projects coming online, utilities will increasingly feel the impact that intermittent power supplies have on the grid, and start to recognize the full value of a firm, reliable power generator that operates just like a conventional generator but without any fuel costs or emissions that are associated with burning a fuel supply such as coal and natural gas.

Ultimately, this milestone will be achieved by cost reductions in the CSP industry. After the initial CSP projects get in the ground, CSP needs to continue to advance to reduce the delivered cost of electricity. At SolarReserve, we have an extensive technology cost reduction and efficiency improvement program to further advance our technology. Our Crescent Dunes Project is project number one and there is a tremendous amount of scope throughout the facility to increase efficiency, decrease capital costs, and decrease contingency margins.

Another milestone that I see is significant expansion into other international markets such as the Middle East, North Africa, South Africa, Latin America, China, India and Australia. SolarReserve has advanced projects in Spain and South Africa, and is expanding into more than a dozen countries.

CSP Today: Despite the technology bankability, cost reductions and value proposition CSP offers, the industry faces criticisms. Why do think this has been the case and how should the industry rebut common misconceptions?

Kevin Smith: There’s no single energy source to solve the energy challenge that we face. The solution is ultimately energy diversification, but with a focus on increasing the renewable energy portfolio substantially. Currently, solar is under 1% of the world’s energy generation capacity, but one of the fasted growing energy resources, and the cost for solar energy are declining rapidly. CSP with storage offers a solution unlike any other renewable energy technology with the capacity to provide firm, reliable power similar to conventional power facilities, but without the harmful emissions and hazardous wastes associated burning conventional fossil fuels or operating nuclear facilities.

CSP is still a new technology for many of those outside of our space, and the only way to respond to criticisms and rebut common misconceptions is through continuing to educate the public, politicians and utilities about the value of CSP with storage. As we have conversations with decision makers about our technology, individuals who have never heard of our technology or the CSP industry will no doubt be impressed with the technology advancements. People understand the importance of energy diversification, energy security, job creation, and a sustainable energy future; but they need to be aware of the technologies that exist today that can help us achieve those goals.

CSP Today: The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project is a 110 MW plant located near Tonopah, Nevada. Once constructed, it will power up to 75,000 homes during peak electricity periods. What has been the overall impact of this project?

Kevin Smith: The impact that SolarReserve’s Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project will have on the solar energy industry, as well as the energy sector as a whole, will be truly unique. It is the first and largest commercial-sized molten salt power tower project in the world, and will demonstrate the viability of our market-leading technology at this scale. This project sets the standards for high efficiency CSP projects with energy storage.

More importantly, the impact on the community, the nation, and the workforce is already being felt. The project started construction in September of 2011, and will employ 600 direct workers during the peak construction period, with a total of 4,300 direct, indirect, and induced jobs across the supply chain, which will have a tremendous impact on the community. To date, over 80% of the on-site workers have been Nevada residents, and we’ve already placed orders for equipment, material and services in 20 states across the US.

Furthermore, the Crescent Dunes project will certainly impact the US’s trend toward energy diversification and energy security. Again, there’s no one solution to the energy problem, but the Crescent Dunes Project is a major milestone in achieving both diversification and energy security.

CSP Today: The industry will be getting together at CSP Today USA 2012 on 27-29 June at Las Vegas to communicate CSP’s competitive value to win a greater stake in the US energy mix. What do you think the industry should focus on to reach this objective?

Kevin Smith: The CSP industry should focus on its capability to provide firm supply renewable energy with its energy storage capabilities. CSP is one of the few renewable energy technologies that can replace conventional power generators such as coal, nuclear and natural gas. While natural gas prices are low right now, natural gas is one of the most volatile fuels in pricing, and future escalation is a certainty. Utilities need to understand that CSP with storage can actually displace natural gas, nuclear and coal generators, and CSP can provide firm, reliable, zero-emission electricity, day or night, as they recognize the need to diversify their energy portfolio.

At CSP Today USA 2012 (27-28 June, Las Vegas), Kevin Smith, CEO of Solar Reserve will part of the senior executive panel ‘Securing a CSP Stronghold – An Industry Goal Explored at CSP Today USA 2012, which also includes; Mercedes Sierra, CEO, SENER, Tex Wilkins, Executive Director, CSP Alliance, Richard Pangrazzi, VP Marketing, North America, Alstom, Gilbert Cohen, President & CEO, Eliasol, Stephen Wiley, SVP of U.S. Project Development, BrightSource Energy, and Armando Zuluaga, Director General, Abengoa Solar.