New SolarPACES Report


Title: Discussion of currently used practices for: Creation of Meteorological Data Sets for CSP/STE Performance Simulations


Authors: Kristian Pagh Nielsen, Philippe Blanc, Frank Vignola, Lourdes Ramírez, Manuel Blanco, Richard Meyer


Click here to download the report




A Concentrating Solar Power (CSP)/Solar Thermal Electric (STE) power plant is a substantial long-term investment. To evaluate the opportunities and risks associated with such a long-term investment requires careful technical and economic analysis. Usually, the results of such analysis are presented in what are known as feasibility studies.


Traditional CSP/STE feasibility studies start by defining an economic model to estimate the eco-nomic metrics that characterize the quality and attractiveness of the investment project associated with the building and exploitation of the CSP/STE power plant. Typical economic metrics are the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE), the Internal Rate of Return (IRR), the Net Present Value (NPV), and the Debt Coverage Ratio (DCR).


Once the model is defined, the main challenge is to accurately estimate the technical and econom-ic variables and parameters that informs the model, such as the project’s Total Investment, the Annual O&M costs, the Annual Electricity Generation, the Discount Rates, the Equity-to-Debt ratio, etc.


Of all of these variables and parameters, the Annual Electricity Generation is the one that characterizes the quality of the solar resource at the CSP/STE plant site and the technical performance of the CSP/STE technology selected to build the solar power plant. To estimate it, one should first develop or acquire a year of relevant solar radiation and other meteorological data that is representative of the long-term meteorology at the solar plant site, and use it, together with the technical parameters that define the plan technology, configuration and operation strategy, to feed a technical model of the plant and estimate the Annual Electricity Generation estimate.


Often, only one yearly data set is used that is representative of the average meteorological year to be expected at the site in the long-term. Sometimes this is supplemented by estimates of the production in a bad year that will be exceeded with a certain probability.


While the above approach, combined with a sensitivity analysis of the economic variables and parameters of the economic model is useful to banks and other potential investors in the decision making process related to the decision of carrying out the investment, there are other more sophisticated approaches that can be pursued.


The one we think is worth exploring is a full stochastic approach, in which the following aspects are explicitly modeled and taking into account:


 The intrinsic variability of the solar resources and other meteorological variables.
 The intrinsic variability of the price of commodity-like plan components, such as molten salt.
 The uncertainty of the technical model used to determine the annual electricity yield.
 The uncertainty associated with all the different component costs and other costs that de-termine the aggregate values of the plan investment and the Annual O&M cost.


In such a model, all the input variables and parameters are considered probability distributions. The challenge is to determine these distributions. How to determine the probability distribution of the Annual Electricity yield of the CSP/STE plant is the overarching theme of this document. Obviously, it starts with how to model the probability distribution of the solar radiation and other relevant meteorological variables. In this report we discuss the factors affecting this distribution.

A new technical report “Concentrating Solar Power Gen3 Demonstration Roadmap” was released in January 2017 by NREL in the context of the SunShot Initiative – a program launched in 2011 in the U.S. aiming at making solar thermal electricity cost-competitive with power from conventional power generation technologies by 2020. The report can be downloaded here.


This roadmap addresses and prioritizes research and development (R&D) gaps and lays out the pathway for a “Gen3 CSP Roadmap.” Throughout the roadmap process, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Sandia National Laboratories (Sandia) engaged appropriate stakeholders, including the CSP industry and developers, utilities, and the laboratory and university research and development (R&D) community. An industry-led Technical Review Committee (TRC) was established to guide the roadmap activity. Technology gaps for each of the technology pathways were identified, together with research priorities designed to address them. This information will be used by DOE to inform and prioritize R&D activities leading to one or more technology pathways to be successfully demonstrated at a scale appropriate for future commercialization of the technology.

2017 SolarPACES Conference in Chile

Thursday, 12 January 2017 10:32

The 23rd SolarPACES Conference to be held in Santigo de Chile, Chile, will take place from 26th to 29th of September 2017 at the Hotel W Santiago.

Guideline for Bankable STE Yield Assessment

Monday, 09 January 2017 14:23

Solar thermal energy (STE), often named Concentrating Solar  Power (CSP), is expected to play an important role in the world’s future electricity supply. Thermal energy storage, an essential part of a concentrating solar thermal power plant, allows for decoupling of solar energy harvest and subsequent electricity production. By this means, demand oriented power production can be realized. By hybridization with fossil fuel burners (or gas turbines/reciprocating engines) time periods of low solar resource are bridged. 


Besides continuous technical improvements of the plants it is of vital importance for a broad market introduction to predict the electricity outcome and thus the financial revenues in high quality. Both, the physical outcome of the plant and the cost/revenue balance are key to project finance. The SolarPACES Guideline for Bankable STE Yield Assessment provides guidance to the stakeholders involved in yield prediction of STE systems. The guideline addresses the project development process which is roughly described by the three phases


  • Pre-feasibility study phase
  • Feasibility study phase
  • Proposal engineering phase

as illustrated in figure 1. The consecutive activities related to guarantee models and acceptance testing are not the focus of this document although strong links exist between the project development and the contractual phase.




Guideline documents for download


In December 2016, the first version of the guideline is released which consists of the main document, entitled “Guideline”, and an appendix that compiles an extensive list of distinct definitions required for STE yield analysis. Most chapters of the guideline are designed to be technology-independent. In the first version of the SolarPACES Guideline, the parabolic trough with oil and molten salt tower technologies are presented.


The following files are available for download:



Apart from these SolarPACES reviewed documents a number of additional documents have been developed within the CSPBankability project. The material is published on the DLR website and will serve as draft for future extensions of the guideline. Interested users are invited to download and use also these documents.


Supporting material


As a basis for tool development, tool comparison, and comparative studies a large number of meteorological data sets have been compiled by German company Suntrace. These data sets are free to use for scientific purposes. The respective files contain a text to be used in the Acknowledgements when using these data. For details, please refer to the documentation which is available for download.


An annual data set is available for all variations shown in the following table resulting in 4x4x4x2=128 individual data sets.




The four zip files with the meteo data sets are provided for download under the link:


A comprehensive documentation for the datasets is available for download.


Continuous update process


Draft material for an extension of the guideline is already available by the end of December 2016. However, this material needs to undergo a comprehensive review process in order to ensure high quality documents. It is foreseen to form a group of experienced experts from various R&D institutes world-wide that organizes the review process. The next steps in this working group will be:


  • Formation of an expert group for the continuous update process (spring 2017)
  • Development of a tool checklist based on the guideline requirements (summer 2017)
  • Extension of the guideline with several appendices (planned for 2018 depending on the funding situation at that time)
  • Extension to other technologies (planned for 2018 depending on funding)


Dissemination activities


The following activities are foreseen to promote the usage of the guideline throughout the STE community:


  • Publication of a checklist document (summer 2017)
  • Introductory webinars to be held and provided for download (2017)
  • Presentation of the guideline at international conferences (2017…)
  • Active dialog together with end users and important stakeholders (in planning)
  • Usage of the guideline in day-to-day work


Some background on the guideline development process 



In 2009, a group of SolarPACES experts started a mission under the headline “guiSmo-a guideline for standardized yield analysis of solar thermal power plants”. Several steps have been carried out in various workshops and meetings resulting in a compilation of relevant physical effects, a general modeling framework, a first compilation of important terminology, and handbook chapter structure. Due to funding limitations, the pace of developing the guideline slowed down dramatically. However, in 2014, national funding was obtained from the German government in order to relaunch the activities with the mission to work out a guideline proposal for discussion within the international expert group of SolarPACES. The first version of this guideline has passed an international review process within the SolarPACES Task I expert community. The guideline document and the Appendix T “Terminology” have been published in December 2016 as SolarPACES reports.


Contact persons


Tobias Hirsch     Coordinator of the guideline project (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Mark Mehos     SolarPACES Task I Operating Agent




The guideline activity has been funded by SolarPACES and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy as well as many contributions from experts world-wide. The main authors and contributors to the documents are mentioned in the documents.


2017 SFERA2 Training Course

Thursday, 22 December 2016 14:32

SFERA II Training course for CSP professionals on:


Optical and Thermal Component Testing of Parabolic Troughs and Influence on System Efficiency


Location: Plataforma Solar de Almería, 04200 Tabernas, Spain

Date: 24.-28.04.2017

Target group: The course is designed for representatives from the CSP industry and companies (engineers, researchers) who want to be trained on real CSP hardware. Participants from the public sector can not participate.

Course Language: English

Objective: This course focuses on Optical and Thermal Component Testing of Parabolic Troughs and Influence on System Efficiency.


More information:

NREL's System Advisor Model Survey Update

Thursday, 15 December 2016 12:59

NREL is asking for your help with the stewardship of the System Advisor Model, or SAM ( SAM's CSP modules include parabolic trough, linear Fresnel, steam and molten-salt power towers, and dish/Stirling technologies. SAM updates are released roughly once per year and in addition to code enhancements, the SAM team endeavors to keep the default capital and operating costs updated to reflect representative market costs. Your assistance is requested to complete a short survey regarding the CSP default cost values in SAM.


Links below are provided for three related surveys that ask questions about the default cost parameters that are used in SAM. We seek your feedback on these values as a means of checking SAM’s inputs with the knowledge of the CSP industry and CSP stakeholders.


  • SAM Cost Category Survey: Power Tower


  • SAM Cost Category Survey: Parabolic Troughs


  • SAM Cost Category Survey: Linear Fresnel


Please complete the survey(s) for which you have knowledge. Feel free to forward this request to others within your company if you feel that is appropriate. For data veracity we request contact and company name; however, all responses are kept confidential. You may leave sections blank if you do not feel you have reliable information on those technologies.


Thank you for your time and consideration in this manner. It is much appreciated. We ask that you complete the survey by 19th of December 2016 if possible. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or issues.




Craig Turchi, PhD (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Parthiv Kurup (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

September 13th, National Energy Administration issued a notice on the construction of concentrating solar power generation demonstration projects, up to 20 projects were included in this first demonstration project list and the status showed that the capacity was around 1.35GW . There are 9 tower projects, 7 parabolic trough projects and four Fresnel project, no dish projects was selected. Among these demonstrations projects, ten of them come from members of the China national solar thermal energy alliance.

According to the notice, based on Notice of the National Energy Administration on the organization of construction of the concentrating solar power demonstration projects([2015]355), Development and Reform Commission (Department of energy) of Qinghai Province, Gansu Province, Hebei Province, the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Xinjiang autonomous region, Energy Regulatory Authority of north and northwest China, Energy Regulatory Office of Gansu and Xinjiang, State Grid Corporation of China(SGCC),China Renewable Energy Engineering Institute(CREEI), Electric Power Planning & Engineering Institute (EPPEI) and China National Renewable Energy Centre(CNREC) organized a group of experts to review in order to determine the final list.

Pricing policy of concentrating solar power generation has just been settled, only by being put into operation before 2019 can the demonstration projects enjoy the 1.15 yuan/kWh solar thermal power benchmark price. Leaving only more than 2 years, it can be predicted that the selected CSP demonstration projects will start developing and constructing soon to accomplish planned agenda on time.

China Projects


Information kindly provided by China National Solar Thermal Alliance


All the most important European concentrated solar energy R&D infrastructures are participating in the ‘Solar Facilities for the European Research Area Second Phase (SFERA II)’ Project, funded by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Program ‘Capacities‘, Specific Program ‘Research Infrastructures’.


Since one of the goals of this project concerns trans-national access, the most relevant European R&D infrastructures will be opening their doors to interested users groups, thereby optimizing use of the facilities and creating critical mass for new research initiatives, free of charge to the users.


The CIEMAT-PSA, CNRS-PROMES, PSI-Villigen, UAL-CIESOL and ENEA-Casaccia sites will be providing access to their state-of-the-art high-flux solar research facilities.


The website address is: There you will find all the basic information you need, like the access conditions.


Please, see the ‘Access to facilities’ section where you can find further information on the R&D themes and research areas, and the different facilities offered for access by each institution. In this ‘Access to facilities’ section, the ‘User Research Proposal Form’ can also be found and download.


The deadline to submit access applications is January 31, 2017

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