Once-cutting-edge Crescent Dunes CSP project has been deemed obsolete, pushing Tonopah Solar Energy out of business

August 25, 2020 | Case Study

Interest in concentrated solar power (CSP) has fluctuated over the past decade. The technology arose as an attractive source of renewable power in highly irradiated areas and saw a rapid rise in deployments in the U.S. and Spain, which became a pioneer market for CSP thanks to the efforts of Abengoa. By the end of 2015, the cumulative CSP capacity reached 2.3 GW and 1.7 GW in Spain and the U.S., respectively. However, neither country has added new capacity in the past five years. In the U.S., this situation is aggravated by the recent cessation in the activity of various CSP developers, including eSolar, SolarReserve, and GlassPoint Solar.

In line with these events, the owner of the Crescent Dunes CSP plant, Tonopah Solar Energy (a subsidiary of SolarReserve), has recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Commissioned in 2015 in Tonopah (Nevada), Crescent Dunes was slated to be the world's largest molten-salt power tower project and the first of its kind in the U.S. This project combines 110 MW of central tower technology and 1.1 GWh of energy storage, equivalent to around 10 hours of daily storage. The facility was backed by a $737 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and was selling electricity to NV Energy at a PPA price of $135/MWh.

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