A techno-economic assessment was performed on modular hybrid solar thermal (in particular, solar power tower) systems with combustion from natural gas as backup to provide a continuous supply of electricity. Two different configurations were compared, i.e. a Hybrid Solar Receiver Combustor (HSRC), in which the functions of a solar cavity receiver and a combustor are integrated into a single device, and a Solar Gas Hybrid (SGH), which is a reference hybrid solar thermal system with a standalone solar-only cavity receiver and a backup boiler. The techno-economic benefits were assessed by varying the size of the modular components, i.e. the heliostat field and the solar receivers. It was found that for modularization to be cost effective requires more than the increased learning from higher production of a larger number of smaller units, such as access to alternative, lower-cost manufacturing methods and/or the use of a low melting point Heat Transfer Fluid (HTF) such as sodium to reduce parasitic losses. In particular, for a plant with 30 units of 1MWth modules, the Levelized Cost of Electricity is competitive compared with a single unit of 30MWth after ∼100 plants are installed for both the HSRC and SGH if the systems employ the use of sodium as the heat transfer fluid.

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