STORING THE SUN – CONCENTRATED SOLAR POWER
Driving up to Crescent Dunes is like journeying to the future: 10,000 mirrors direct sunlight onto a receptor in a 200-meter-high tower that glows brightly from the focused beams. In the receptor, molten salts heat up before being stored in an insulated reservoir at the base of the tower or used directly to generate electricity through steam turbines. Stored in a hot tank, liquid salt moves through a heat exchanger for steam generation later (usually at night) and the plant has a capacity for 10 hours of full-load generation from storage. Technology literally directs the sunlight to the receptors and the mirrors move every six seconds in a choreographed stepping motion to maintain efficiency. In the tower’s base, a control center directs operations; futuristic software controls the mirror positions, energy generation, and transmission. With no degradation of output, this 110MW plant powers 75,000 homes with zero fossil fuels and a projected 40-year life. This technology offers 24-hour-a-day solar power.
SolarReserve (www.solarreserve.com/) and their emblematic Crescent Dunes solar plant in Nevada, U.S.A sits at the forefront of this Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) technology. As the energy transition gathers momentum, demand for seamless alternatives to fossil fuels accelerates. CSP captures the imagination as one stunning alternative.
CSP lends itself to larger “utility scale” generation projects (commonly greater than 100MW) and generally requires more constant sunlight than photovoltaic (PV) modules. This, just like hydroelectric-power generation, depends mostly on geography – consider the abundance of sun like the water entering a power-generating dam – both are natural phenomena; the infrastructure must stand in the right place. Hotspots for CSP lie in the western part of Latin America (where altitude has a hugely positive impact), the southwestern United States, Australia, northern and southern Africa, western China, and sunny parts of other continents – such as Spain, which currently boasts the most CSP installed.
WEMCo supports renewable energy and keeps abreast of the latest developments. As governments encourage renewable energy, we believe lobbying by businesses, communities, local authorities, and all interested stakeholders can accelerate low-carbon solutions – take for example the SolarReserve Port Augusta project in South Australia (https://aurorasolarthermal.com.au/). WEMCo offers advice and enthusiasm to maximize your participation in the energy transition.
Wayne E. Mayer, Ph.D.