First Molten Salt Power Plant Approved in California

Image: Solar Reserve

The most common complaint lodged against solar power is that -- say it with me now -- it's only able to provide power when it's light outside. Solar developers have tried to solve this problem a number of ways, and using molten salt to store the heat is one of the most promising. And the technology is now ready to move beyond the drawing board -- California just approved its first molten salt solar power plant. Inhabitat has the details:

SolarReserve's Rice Solar Energy Project will end up looking a lot like the solar thermal tower above but will have a secret weapon hidden underneath - molten salt. Since the salt will be able to reach temperatures over 1000 degrees Fahrenheit and retain most of the heat it collects during the day, the plant will have the ability to keep churning out juice long after the sun goes down. It will be the first project in California to use the savory technology to store and distribute energy.
The molten salt solar tower will function much like concentrated solar towers -- where hundreds of mirrored heliostats reflect light, concentrating the sun's rays on the tower. But conventional towers use the energy to heat water and send power to the grid through a steam generator.

Not the molten salt plant -- instead, there's a reserve of salt inside the tower that gets heated to a molten state, and, as Inhabitat explains, "The molten salt is then pumped into a reserve tank and maintains close to all of its original heat. When needed, the heat can be pumped through a steam generator that sends electricity to the grid." Voila! Molten salt power.

Click over to Inhabitat to see a closeup of the diagram.

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Tags: California | Clean Energy | United States

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