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.
CLIMATE CHANGE AND WHAT IT MEANS (OR CAN MEAN) FOR YOU AND YOUR COMPANY
Renewables have broken the Energy mold. Now, their game-changing economics have generated their own kind of power. Not only does low-carbon energy produce low-cost power, but it often creates invaluable assets.
Why? What’s behind this shift in market forces?
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has, since 1995, organized the annual Conferences of Parties (COPs). The COPs devise greenhouse gas emissions policies and aim to limit global temperature rise caused by anthropogenic (human) activities to less than 2 degrees Celsius. In the 2015 Paris Agreement (COP21), virtually every nation in the world (197 parties) agreed to work together to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions.
The Paris Agreement requires that every five years members submit action plans known as nationally-determined contributions, or NDCs. Each country must continuously strengthen its plan. COP21, now ratified*, drives government policies worldwide to reduce fossil fuel use and increase renewable energy. The photovoltaic (PV), or solar panel, manufacturers and installers now benefit from economies of scale and strive to build solar farms that can satisfy utility-scale demand at lower and lower prices.
“Storing the sun” now ranks as a second “race to space” as technology companies vie to design huge batteries and exploit the sun’s stored PV power at night or optimize Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), which heats a liquid to produce 24-hour power from conventional turbines. Plug into this worldwide megatrend and you’ll find big opportunities to increase value and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
WEMCo recognizes the influence that climate-change science has on your business—from promoting your brand to engaging your employees in Sustainability. We can assist in the design of policies and practices at any scale that keep your business up to speed with the fast-moving world of climate-change science and politics – WEMCo Helps You Keep up with the COPs! Every month you will discover insights into the reality of climate-change-driven businesses and businesses driven by climate change.
*U.S. President Donald Trump has initiated the USA withdrawal from the COP21 agreement, which adds a new dimension to the politics of climate-change science.
Wayne E. Mayer, Ph.D.