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NREL Handbook Enables CSP Development

September 27, 2010

Large concentrating solar power (CSP) systems require a substantial investment—construction costs can exceed $1 billion. Developers who conduct financial analyses for such projects must have the best possible information about the quality and reliability of the fuel source. To help with this important task, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has published a handbook that tells how to collect, interpret, and use solar resource data during all stages of development, from selecting the site to operating the system.

“Concentrating Solar Power, Best Practices Handbook for the Collection and Use of Solar Resource Data” includes guidance on how to collect reliable data about the solar resource at specific locations, including seasonal, daily, hourly, and even subhourly variability. Such data can be used to predict the daily and annual performance of a proposed CSP plant.  The handbook also provides an introduction to important concepts, an inventory of historical data, an overview of methods for modeling solar resources, and how to apply the data to CSP projects.

Project developers, engineering procurement construction firms, utility companies, energy suppliers, financial investors, and others involved in CSP plant planning and development will likely find this handbook a valuable resource.

The publication was assembled by scientists and engineers with many decades of combined experience in atmospheric science, radiometry, meteorological data processing, and renewable energy technology development. The work culminates more than 30 years of research and development investment by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and NREL to advance understanding of the nation’s renewable energy reserves.

The effort was led by NREL’s Tom Stoffel, manager of the Resource Information and Forecasting Group in the laboratory’s Electricity, Resources, and Building Systems Integration Center. “Producing this first version of the handbook was arduous, rewarding, and a labor of love,” he says. “There was a high level of interest from the start—many external reviewers volunteered their time to give us valuable critiques of our first draft. And within 48 hours of publication we had enthusiastic user feedback. I’m glad to see our combined expertise in solar resource characterization will be put to use by our stakeholders.”

Stoffel and the handbook team are not resting on their laurels, however.  They consider the publication a work in progress. Users are encouraged to provide feedback to the authors for future revisions and expansion of the scope and content.

For more information, view the handbook (7.32 MB) on the NREL Website.  Download Adobe Reader.


—Karen Atkison