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Concentrating solar power: Improving electricity cost and security of supply, and other economic benefits

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Abstract

The South African solar resource is vast. By utilising this resource effectively, concentrating solar power (CSP) offers the ability to efficiently store thermal energy until needed for electricity generation. This technology can therefore assist the total electricity system to link demand and supply. Nevertheless, CSP is still entering the commercialisation phase and, as the learning rate sets in, the cost is expected to decrease significantly; thus providing a dispatchable renewable energy option that is competitive with conventional options. A major dilemma needs to be overcome. Until sufficient CSP capacity is installed each year, the localisation potential, and the overall economic benefit for the country, will not materialise. This in turn could stall the technology. This paper presents a techno-economic scenario to show that a CSP industry can be established now that exceeds the threshold for setting up economies of scale, reduces the cost of electricity, and increases energy security.

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