China completes first large CSP plant; US injects $21mn into solar thermal desalination

Our pick of the latest solar thermal news you need to know.

China connects first large-scale CSP plant to grid

China connected the 50 MW Delingha CSP plant to the grid on June 30, the first large-scale CSP plant to come online in the country, according to media reports.

The Delingha CSP plant uses parabolic trough technology and molten salt storage and has been developed by China General Nuclear Power (CGN). Spain's Ingeteam performed the basic and detailed engineering of the solar field while IDOM performed the basic and detailed engineering of the molten salt storage system, which offers around nine hours of storage capacity.

The project is expected to receive a feed-in-tariff of RMB 1.15/kWh ($170/MWh).

The Delingha plant is located in Western China at 3,100 meters above sea level. The site has a direct normal irradiance (DNI) level of more than 2,150 kWh/m2/year.

Delingha is one of 20 projects selected under China's 1.35 GW CSP Commercial Demonstration Pilot Program.

China is rapidly expanding domestic renewable energy capacity to reduce carbon emissions and pollution levels worsened by a surge in fossil fuel-fired capacity.

              Global CSP activity in Q1 2018

                                (Click image to enlarge)

Source: CSP Today Global Tracker Quarterly Report.

Chinese groups are also expanding renewables operations and partnerships overseas. Last month, Saudi Arabia's ACWA Power and major EPC group China Energy Engineering Corporation (CEEC) agreed to explore joint investment opportunities in power generation and water desalination in the Middle East and Asia.

In April, ACWA Power signed an EPC contract with Shanghai Electric, a major Chinese power company, to install its 700 MW DEWA CSP project in Dubai.

The dual-technology DEWA CSP project, awarded by the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) in September 2017, sets a new industry record for size and cost-efficiency. The project was awarded at a tariff price of $73/MWh and includes up to 15 hours of energy storage capacity.

US DOE provides $21 million to solar thermal desalination R&D

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is to provide $21 million to 14 research projects that will help reduce the cost of solar thermal desalination, DOE said in a statement.

Desalination is the process of treating seawater, brackish water and contaminated water for use in industrial water supplies or other needs.

Currently, desalination operations need to be grid connected, limiting their deployment. Solar thermal technology could allow the development of portable systems that do not need grid connection.

Key growth markets for desalination include municipal water production, agriculture, industrial processes and the purification of water produced during the extraction of natural resources.

For small-scale plants that process low volume, high-salinity water, such as brine from oil and gas operations, the research projects must aim to achieve a levelized cost of water (LCOW) of $1.50 per cubic meter, DOE said in a statement.

For large-scale plants that process high-volume, low-salinity water, for example seawater for a municipal utility, projects are expected to target (LCOW) of $0.50/cubic meter, it said.

The research projects are expected to take up to three years to complete and the funding is awarded through a 20% to 50% cost share arrangement.

"In total, the projects represent a public-private investment of nearly $30 million," the DOE said.

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