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Economic, Energy, and Environmental Benefits of Concentrating Solar Power in California

April 1, 2006

Black and Veatch, under subcontract to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), completed an assessment of the benefits of large-scale deployment of concentrating solar power (CSP) within the state of California. The authors assessed benefits in terms of potential economic return, energy supply, and environmental benefits to the state. The analysis was based on near-term CSP deployment levels of 2,100 and 4,000 megawatts (MW) and compares the impacts of CSP against conventional power generation within California, primarily combined-cycle and simple-cycle turbines.

Examples of significant findings include:

  • California has high-quality solar resources sufficient to support far more CSP than either the 2,100 MW or 4,000 MW scenarios analyzed.

  • Investment in CSP power plants delivers greater return to California in both economic activity and employment than corresponding investment in natural gas equipment:

    • Each dollar spent on CSP contributes approximately $1.40 to California's Gross State Product; each dollar spent on natural gas plants contributes about $0.90 - $1.00 to Gross State Product.
    • The 4,000 MW deployment scenario was estimated to create about 3,000 permanent jobs from the ongoing operation of the plants.

  • Operations period expenditures on operations and maintenance for CSP create more permanent jobs than alternative natural gas fueled generation. For each 100 MW of generating capacity, CSP was estimated to generate 94 permanent jobs compared to 56 jobs and 13 jobs for combined cycle and simple cycle plants, respectively.

  • Each CSP plant provides emissions reductions compared to its natural gas counterpart; the 4,000 MW scenario in this study offsets at least 300 tons per year of NOx emissions, 180 tons of CO emissions per year, and 7,600,000 tons per year of CO2.

Download the full report: Economic, Energy, and Environmental Benefits of Concentrating Solar Power in California (PDF 1.5 MB) Download Adobe Reader.