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Concentrated Solar Thermal Technology A Renewable Energy Solution For Pakistan

During this century, we will have to address the challenge of deeply transforming the world energy system, making it sustainable and environment friendly. To achieve this, we will have to substantially increase the market penetration of all types of renewable energy technologies.

Solar Thermal Power plant is particularly attractive with a genuine notion. Also known as Concentrated Solar Power plant (CSP), it is the technology of energy extraction, in which sunlight is concentrated at one point on liquid, heat converts liquid into pressurized gas which rotates the turbines, that in turn provides rotational mechanical power to a generator for the production of electricity.

From Solar technologies, Photovoltaics (PV) has already been commercialized to fulfill today’s world energy requirements. However, Concentrated solar thermal has yet to go through the learning curve. It seems to be a major contributor as a baseload and dispatchable resource in energy mix generation of future[1].

Per unit of electricity is a key consideration for power output from any new technology.The average cost of electricity declined 26% year-on-year for concentrated solar power (CSP) in 2018. The cost of Concentrated solar thermal power fell twice the rate seen in onshore wind and PV, and has dropped 46% since 2010[2]. Frank Dinter suggests these costs for parabolic trough and solar towers will fall between 33% and 37% by 2025, compared to 2015, owing largely to market developments and technology advancements[3]. Decreasing Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) and increasing capacity factor support its deployment.

CSP is growing as a very mature technology; India, China, and Iran, three of four neighbour countries of Pakistan have already adopted its commercialization. There is also financial feasibility of CSP plants in Pakistan as the Levelized Cost of energy is significantly low[4].

Pakistan is a potential country for extracting solar energy as it receives plenty of Direct Normal irradiance (DNI).

Studies suggest that it results in higher capacity factor and greater dispatchability when the Concentrated solar thermal (CSP) plant is given with Thermal Energy Storage (TES) and its LCOE is not that affected [6] [7].

It becomes a unique source of solar energy in its output that can be shifted over time and controlled in response to system requirements, allowing for the provision of a wide range of grid services. Unlike regular perception, CSP has no competition with Solar PV due to difference of their role; CSP with Thermal Energy Storage rather supports its commercialization by being a remedy to its intermittency[9]. If dispatchability and thus storage is considered, then Concentrated solar thermal is both technically and financially preferable over commercialized renewables[10].

CSP offers an extra advantage as Glass, being used for focusing purpose, can be recycled 100% so this does not end up life leaving with no useable or difficult to utilize residue. Concentrated Solar Thermal can play a major role in the future Energy Mix of the world and Pakistan can avail it quite with ease since it is blessed with high Direct Normal Irradiance while other conditions like humidity, terrestrial slope, and land availability are also supporting.

First and foremost, information about a power plant is its location. Sites of Sindh and plain areas of Baluchistan are encouraging for the small scale projects of CSP. There is a variety of technologies for Concentrated solar thermal and few of them like parabolic dish need quite a low amount of water or air cooling can also be implied,

Only other comparable Energy Extraction Method can be Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) power plants, though these plants have been a far more attractive option because of flexibility and very low LCOE, it is again not renewable; though a technology with less Greenhouse gas emission.

Furthermore, Pakistan’s indigenous gas reverses are exhausting at a rapid rate and being an agriculture-based country, it must utilize its gas potential towards manufacturing of fertilizers rather than for power requirements

CSP can be integrated with Solar PV, wind, natural gas, coal, geothermal and biomass. Coal is doubtlessly a dirty fuel but cannot be eliminated at once particularly in the countries with huge reserves. Thar has reserves of 175 billion tons of coal, making Pakistan 7th country with high reserves of the lignite[11] and left with almost 100% of its reserves to be extracted. Many of the major projects are seemed to be around the extraction and utilization of this indigenous mineral wealth. For now, it is almost impossible for a developing country like Pakistan to completely shift its energy resources towards renewables. Thus, reducing carbon emissions can be appreciable. The integration of CSP with the coal reduces the emissions, increases the capacity factor of Power plant and decreases the LCOE[12][13].

Similarly, Tharparkar alone is home to more than 6 million livestock and thus feasible for Biomass generation. CSP-Biomass integration can be feasible both economically and technically for the region. This has much higher potential to address climate change[13].

Concentrated solar thermal is an emerging technology and has a larger potential to serve a significant share in the overall energy mix of the country. It is particularly useful renewable where intermittency is objectionable. Stand-alone CSP or its integration with indigenous coal or Biomass can bring a considerable boost to the overall power system capacity, remove the dependency on imported fuel, accelerate the wheel of industry and reduce emissions by the transformation of Non-Renewable Technology into Low Renewable technology. Utilization of arid areas for solar power extraction can be game-changing in the field of Energy.


[1] J. Lilliestam et al., “Policies to keep and expand the option of concentrating solar power for dispatchable renewable electricity,” Energy Policy, vol. 116, pp. 193–197, 2018.


[3] “China Puts Online Pioneering Large-Scale CSP Project,” 2018. [Online]. Available: https://www.powermag.com/china-puts-online-pioneering-large-scale-csp-project/. [Accessed: 11-Nov-2019].

[4] Soomro, Mengal, Memon, Khan, Shafiq, and Mirjat, “Performance and Economic Analysis of Concentrated Solar Power Generation for Pakistan,” Processes, vol. 7, no. 9, p. 575, Sep. 2019.

[5] “Pakistan_DNI_mid-size-map_156x163mm-300dpi_v20170301.png (1842×1925).” .

[6] M. Mehos et al., “On the Path to SunShot: Advancing Concentrating Solar Power Technology, Performance, and Dispatchability,” 2016.

[7] J. Lilliestam, J. M. Bielicki, and A. G. Patt, “Comparing carbon capture and storage (CCS) with concentrating solar power (CSP): Potentials, costs, risks, and barriers,” Energy Policy, vol. 47, pp. 447–455, Aug. 2012.

[8] “Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2019,” Abu Dhabi, 2020.

[9] W. T. Hamilton, M. A. Husted, A. M. Newman, R. J. Braun, and M. J. Wagner, “Dispatch optimization of concentrating solar power with utility-scale photovoltaics,” Optim. Eng., Sep. 2019.

[10] A. Rahouma et al., “Technical and Economic Evaluation of Concentrated Solar Power Plant 2 Concentrated Solar Power Market,” pp. 229–234.

[11] M. S. Malkani and Z. M. Malik, “Coal Resources of Pakistan : entry of new coalfields Government of Pakistan Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Resource Geological Survey of Pakistan Information Release No . 980 . Coal Resources of Pakistan : entry of new coalfields By Zafar Mahmood Issued,” 2018.

[12] C. Li, R. Zhai, Y. Yang, K. Patchigolla, J. E. Oakey, and P. Turner, “Annual performance analysis and optimization of a solar tower aided coal-fired power plant,” Appl. Energy, vol. 237, no. August 2018, pp. 440–456, 2019.

[13] S. Pramanik and R. V Ravikrishna, “A review of concentrated solar power hybrid technologies,” Appl. Therm. Eng., vol. 127, pp. 602–637, 2017.


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