Molten Salt Concentrated Solar Plant can Produce Electricity on Demand

5th Apr 2013

Workers at the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant near Tonopah, Nevada, have just finished erecting the receiver panels on top of the 540 foot tower at the centre of the facilities Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) plant.

Unlike other CSP plants this one is a little different in that it uses molten salt technology, and will be the largest of its kind in the world once fully completed later this year; not surprising as it has cost a fair bit to build, even receiving a federally backed construction loan to the tune of $737 million.

Just like a standard CSP system, the plant will use thousands of heliostat mirrors will focus the sun’s rays onto a central tower. However at this site the solar energy will be used to heat salt that runs through the alloy tubes in the receiver panels at the top of the tower, unlike the traditional water. The salt can reach temperatures of more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit and retains that heat quite well providing the option of storing the energy or transferring directly to be used in electricity generation.

The salt, in its liquid form, is piped down the tower to inexpensive storage tanks at ground level, from there it can then be used as and when needed, to boil water which in turn can operate a steam-driven turbine. The added option to store energy for up to ten hours means that electricity can be created 24-7 on an on-demand basis, exactly like any nuclear or fossil fuel power plant.

By. Joao Peixe