The lowest bids in two tenders for up to 350 MW of concentrated solar power (CSP) capacity in Morocco have been made by tie-ups led by Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power and Spanish firm Abengoa, Reuters reported. The lowest bids in two tenders for up to 350 MW of concentrated solar power (CSP) capacity in Morocco have been made by tie-ups led by Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power International and Spanish firm Abengoa. Results of tenders for constructing and operating the two Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plants near the city of Ouarzazate, one of at least 200 MW and the other of at least 100 MW, are expected in the next few weeks, the sources said. Then plants are scheduled to start generating power in 2017. The two Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plants are the second phase of the 500 MW Ouarzazate project, which is part of a government plan to produce 2 gigawatts of solar power by 2020, equivalent to about 38 percent of Morocco’s current installed generation capacity. Moroccan solar energy agency Masen said consortiums led by Spain’s Abengoa, GDF’s International Power Gand ACWA Power had been pre-selected for the 200 MW (Noor II) tender. The three groups have also pre-qualified for the 100 MW (Noor III) tender, along with another consortium led by Electricite de France. The consortium led by ACWA group, which includes Spanish international engineering company Sener, bid $0.1601 per kilowatt-hour in power tariffs from the completed plant, the lowest bid received by Masen to build Noor II, the sources said. Abengoa’s consortium made the cheapest offer of $0.1672 per Kwh to build Noor III. If Masen decides to combine the bids for the two plants, the ACWA bids overall would beat Abengoa’s, the sources said. “The two options have been considered. We are studying the two tenders separately as the technology is not the same, but we are also considering combining the two bids as almost the same bidders have been selected for the two plants,” a source from Masen said. Masen has chosen parabolic mirror technology for the 200 MW solar plant, while the 100 MW plant will be built as a solar power tower. Banking sources have said the estimated cost is 1.7 billion euros ($2.1 billion) — 1 billion for the 200 MW plant and 700 million for the 100 MW plant. To finance the plants, Morocco has secured loans of $519 million loan from the World Bank, 654 million euros from German state-owned bank KFW, and the rest from the African Development Bank (AfDB), the European Commission and European Investment Bank. ACWA Power is already building a 160 MW plant in the first stage of the project in the Ouarzazate area.

The solar thermal could fall to 45 euros / MWh in 2020 for some Concentrated Solar Power projects

Solar thermal or Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) is not just one more renewable. Its great asset is that it allows availability and dispatchability (ability to generate electricity depending on the need of the network) thanks to its thermal storage and therefore it is possible that it manages production on demand, even more if it is done under the criteria of decarbonization.

But it does not finish taking off internationally not only because of its costs, still very limited in relation to other renewable technologies, but because it needs a series of very specific geographical, physical and atmospheric conditions, as discussed at the CSP Madrid 2019 Congress, The international reference meeting of the Concentrating Solar Power industry.

“Even so, solar thermal is the cheapest when the sun goes down,” explains Luis Crespo, general secretary of Protermosolar and president of the European Association of the Solar Thermal Electricity Industry (ESTELA), “for example, the peak of maximum demand in the Spanish peninsula usually occurs around 8:00 p.m. on the cold days of the winter months, when there is hardly any photovoltaic or wind power contribution, and there is the storage system of the Concentrated Solar Power could cover that need and even participate in the arbitration of spot market prices as do the pumping plants”.

The six-hour reserve of the storage tanks of these Concentrated Solar Power plants could contribute for two or three consecutive days to respond to the high demand for those maximum peaks, and the total backup capacity will be recovered on a sunny day or in the next valley period. “If this potential is recognized, the storage tanks could be oversized with little additional investment and the electricity supplier at peak times for a full week could easily be done.”

Hence, they are new auctions that may need the update of new solar thermal power in the market. “We do not expect the Government to have designed specific auctions for solar thermal power, but rather that other additional price requirements, such as employment management or job creation for each of the projects that concur, are specified in renewable energy auctions.”

“It is true that in Spain the price is expected to remain between 80 and 100 dollars / MWh (72 and 90 euros / MWh at the current exchange rate), but we are not so far from competing with the cycles, which are subsidized and their price It is around 60 dollars”, Crespo points out, “and in some countries with the DNI (Chile) as Chile, it is expected that by 2020 prices below 50 dollars / MWh (45 euros / MWh) can be reached”.

It is precisely the Atacama Desert, the geographical area with the perfect weather conditions, “which will make the price very competitive,” confirmed Li Wei, president of the China Supcon Solar, “and I bet it will go down from 50 dollars / MWh ».

In Europe, solar thermal is only feasible at latitudes below the imaginary line of Madrid and Spain remains the world leader in installed power (2.3 GW), followed closely by the US. (1.8 GW) despite the slowdown of Trump’s policies, and of China.

The Asian country had proposed in 2016 to build 20 Concentrating Solar Power plants that added a total of 1.5 GW, but finally 13 (1 GW) will be built due to financing and regulation problems in the Asian giant. “The Chinese industry, although it has hired European specialists, many of them from Abengoa, to carry out these projects, the truth is that it has yet to prove that they control a technology that is difficult to export as is the case with photovoltaic panels, and which Spain is still the leader”.

So Spain would be a leader not only in knowledge but also in installed power if the objectives of the National Energy and Climate Plan (PNIEC) are carried out with the modification of 5 new GW of Concentrated Solar Power until 2030.

“It is not only to incorporate more renewable capacity into the system, it is to offer a strategic energy storage reserve, that is, it does not work in the same way as the pumping plants and as it is expected that the batteries worked in the future, charging during the night and supplying when the price of electricity is high”, Crespo concludes, “the 20 Concentrated Solar Power plants proposed by Protermosolar in its report “Transition Report” could provide through storage a quantity of annual energy similar to approximately 20 pumping stations such as La Muela”.

“Concentrated Solar Power technology could improve load peaks by combining photovoltaic with wind energy and energy storage, and will improve the new generation so in ten years the cost of this technology could be half of what it is now, it is the projection that we handle”, adds Li Wei.