Reports and studies

Market and concept studies

The international environment for the development of technologies and projects in the global solar thermal power plant sector is very dynamic. The innovative system designs and components created for global and regional markets need to be evaluated in terms of energy and cost efficiency.

We conduct studies with differing levels of detail that analyze new concepts by comparing them with tried-and-tested technologies already on the market.

Location and country analyses

The amount of direct solar radiation available is the most important criterion to consider when identifying suitable locations for solar thermal power plants. Another decisive factor is the infrastructure already in place, such as roads, water pipes and fuel lines. Access to the power grid is also crucial, as laying new cables is both expensive and time consuming. Other factors to take into account are the geological and geographic characteristics, such as the soil composition or inclination, as well as the prior use of the land, for example as a nature reserve, restricted military area or oil field.

All of these factors impose severe limitations when searching for potential locations in a particular region and must be considered when assessing the overall potential for generating solar thermal power as well as when searching for a suitable site to actually construct the plant.

At Fraunhofer ISE, we conduct these analyses using GIS (geographic information system) software. The results are clearly displayed on a map, as shown in Fig. 1 for Chile.

Yield reports

Yield reports provide the basis for assessing a project’s economic viability, making them an important element during the initial planning stage of a solar thermal power plant. Authoritative yield forecasts for solar thermal power plants in specific locations are primarily based on reliable meteorological data as well as sufficiently accurate power plant models. The ColSim simulation environment designed by Fraunhofer ISE allows dynamic models to be created which simulate the energy output of complete power plants that draw on varying collector technologies. It enables us to generate annual yield forecasts at intervals of up to ten minutes and by taking into account the statistical fluctuation of the meteorological data available, it is able to calculate both the average and, with a certain degree of probability, minimum annual energy yields.

We work alongside our partners to statistically correlate the high-resolution satellite data with accurate data measured on the ground in order to generate high-quality meteorological data. This process creates reliable, statistically evaluated time series, which can go on to be used in our ColSim simulations. We also advise our clients on how to create and install calibrated meteorological measuring stations, as well as acquire and evaluate data.

Studies of the entire energy industry

In order to analyze a power plant or specific technological development comprehensively, it is essential that solar thermal power plants are integrated into the energy industry as a whole. The detailed planning of a power plant’s design or operation needs to take into account the short- and long-term developments in the electricity and energy markets. The use of storage systems by solar thermal power plants in particular is closely tied to the demand characteristics or operating mode of other power plants within the same energy system. The assessment of the economic viability of the investment and operation in terms of financial performance indicators plays a major role in evaluating this.

Fraunhofer ISE uses energy system analysis and power plant operation planning models to conduct comprehensive investigations of the position of solar thermal power plants within the energy industry. Economic sensitivity analyses and scenarios enable statements to be made about the long-term effects of solar thermal power plant technology.