Proposed 150 MW Solar Plant Would Store 7 Hours of Sun's Energy in Molten Salt


Design rendering of Rice Solar Energy Project via Solar Reserve

The problem with solar power plants is, of course, that they're rendered useless on cloudy days and at night. But news broke a while back that a process of storing solar energy in molten salt was being considered to help make solar power plants more commercially viable. Now, it looks like that technology is about to be put into action: a California company has filed an application to build a 150 megawatt solar plant that will store 7 hours worth of the sun's energy in molten salt--allowing it to provide power nearly around the clock.According to Green Inc, the Rice Solar Energy Project, is going to be built in the Sonoran Desert near Palm Springs. And according to the license application from Solar Reserve, the company helming the project, it will "generate steady and uninterrupted power during hours of peak electricity demand."


Design for a molten salt project in Nevada

The prospect of storing energy eliminates the need to rely on using fossil fuel plants for backup during dark days and peak hours.

Here's how the Rice Solar Energy Project will be set up:

17,500 large mirrors - each one 24 feet by 28 feet -- will be attached to 12-foot-hight pedestals. The mirrors, called heliostats, will be arrayed in a circle around a 538-foot-tall concrete tower. Atop the tower will sit a 100-foot-tall receiver filled with 4.4 million gallons of liquid salt. The heliostats will focus the sun on the receiver, heating the salt to 1,050 degrees Fahrenheit. The liquefied salt flows through a steam generating system to drive the turbine and then is returned to the receiver to be heated again.
For a visualization of how the molten salt technology works, check out this diagram, via Solar Reserve:

The 'molten salt solution' is a promising idea in the quest to make continuous power production from solar a reality--and the success of this project could be huge news for the solar industry.

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Tags: Alternative Energy | California | Clean Energy | Solar Power