Despite a renewable capacity of 2.6 times peak demand, Spain’s intermittent renewables do not provide grid needs for operating reserves and frequency stability, so they have not displaced conventional fossil technologies
Each MW of solar thermal power can replace each MW of gas and achieve a total transition of the electricity sector, which would imply the substitution of current natural gas plants, as can be seen from the study carried out by Protermosolar in collaboration with the Comillas Pontifical University, which analyzes the technical and economic aspects with a view to achieving a 100% decarbonised electricity sector.
The electricity sector in Spain has a capacity of 120GW, which represents 2.6 times the peak demand (45GW). This data shows that the growth of this power is based on the installation of new renewable technologies of an intermittent nature and that, by not providing firmness and operating reserves, they do not displace conventional fossil technologies and, therefore, the electricity sector. it is currently decarbonizing in energy, but not in power, according to Protermosolar.
The study carried out by Protermosolar and the Comillas Pontifical University analyzes the needs of the electrical system by 2030 in Spain based on three fundamental axes: flexibility, demand coverage and the security and frequency stability of the electrical system.
With regard to flexibility, the so-called duck curve, already present in the current electrical system, is expected to double the need for ramps to go down at dawn (beginning of solar production) and ramps to go up at sunset ( when the photovoltaic solar production disappears). Said ramps, which will be covered by 40-50% by gas plants, can be replaced in their entirety by solar thermal plants.
As regards demand coverage, the study identifies how pumping and concentrated solar power plants with thermal storage have capacity factors greater than 50% between the 300 and 600 most critical annual hours of demand.
Finally, the study concludes that if an additional 7 GW of solar thermal power plants were introduced, they would contribute to covering the inertia and primary reserve needs required by the electrical system, thus ensuring security of supply and frequency stability.
For all this and with a view to the revision of the PNIEC, it is essential to encourage different storage and renewable technologies with support that allow a real decarbonization of the sector, where solar thermal technology must play an essential role, benefiting from a solar power such as Spain, according to Protermosolar.