Sunday, November 8, 2009

Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me

As the article state, "The holy grail of renewable energy is a solar power plant that continues producing electricity after the sun goes down". Essentially, SolarReverse, a company in Santa Monica, California, is looking to build a 150-megawatt solar farm that will store around seven hours worth of the sun's energy by heating molten salt and releasing that heat at night to create steam that will turn a turbine in order to compensate for the demand of electricity throughout the day.

The project, named Rice Solar Energy Project, will be built in the Sonoran Desert. The power plant will use thousands of mirrors, called heliostats, to concentrate sunlight to a tower with a receiver mounted on top of it. The receiver will be filled with 4.4 million gallons of liquid salt and will be heated by the focused sunlight to around 1050 degrees, which will flow through a steam-generating system.

This isn't the first time salt has been used for solar purposes, but in this case, the salt will be stored in tanks and used later. Solar Reverse also claims that it will air-cool the plant to avoid using water, another concern that comes with energy. This is yet another step in the right direction in our path to more reliable and renewable energy. Now that we are expanding the definition of solar energy with the introduction of using salt, this will urge scientists to find other mediums to where we can store the sun's energy, a source of energy that will be here to stay.

Although this may work in California, not all states have the available space need to commit to such a large project. This limits the effectiveness of a power plant like this dependent on its location. In the future, I believe that the big states with enough money and in an area that has high solar power potential will invest in this type of power plant. I do wonder however, if the current state of California's economy will have any effect on this specific project. Whether it will delay the completion of the project, or completely abandon it, if there is any effect at all.


Colt Kaiser said...

This is a very interesting take on solar energy and one that should solve many of the problems that storage of energy has. I'm not entirely sure however that this way of storing energy is the one that is the most efficient. 4.4 million gallons is a lot of salts, and there's not really any information as to how often the mixtures wear out and if they ever need to be replaced. The whole plant though would have to be fairly large to accommodate all the solar technology along with the storing salts must take up alot of area for only 150 MW. This is however a step in the right direction and this technology can only improve as time goes by. This will help not only future of alternative energy but as more technology such as this that stores valuable clean energy comes out, there will be a much larger reliance on clean energy rather than natural gas for electricity production.

WattsUp03 said...

It is interesting that the Rice Solar Energy Project is choosing to use air-cooled condensers (ACC’s) for its power plant. This is a smart choice if they want to get the power plant under construction and into production because it eliminates the need for large volumes of water needed for cooling. Cooling water consumption has become a major issue for construction of utility scale solar energy plants. The use of ACC’s means a city will not be worried about providing water for the plant’s condensers and the operators don’t have to worry about getting water front property, which is very rare in a desert. By getting the project underway they also can have more security about their economic decision to build the plant. And developers not have to argue and wait for a city to agree to hand over their limited water supply. In this case, the water authority may be the Coachella Valley Water District, which controls water from the very large aquifer under Palm Springs and water delivery from the Colorado River Aqueduct used for farming. I don’t think that the economic situation in California will affect the production of the plant just based on the number of golf courses and country clubs in Palm Springs. But Palm Springs residents need water.


itzy said...

This project is a good idea because we know that we need to use alternate forms of energy to reduce carbon emissions, and if this project does work and it uses air to cool it down instead of water, it is going to be a great project. But since it is really land intensive is not going to be an option for many states that do not have the land necessary to build the plant. I guess we just have to wait for the project to get going to see how it turns out and if it is going to be worth the investment.

Meghan Croxton said...

Money is always a leading issue brought up, especially with the economy the way it is. Space is another issue, with cities growing at the rate that they are. But the topic that should be above all others is the threat of global warming. This is our planet, and our lives depend on the health of our environment.
Yes, this project may be costly and land intensive, but we should take advantage of this technological advancement and produce energy without dangerous emissions. The continuous production of energy throughout the night is a huge positive aspect for this power plant and will hopefully inspire the United States to utilize this Solar Energy project.

diana camcho said...

It never ceases to surprise me on how revolutionized our technology has become, just thinking about being able to store energy during the day to use during the night is simply cool. This solar farm seems to be very well planed and could only bring a new perspective to alternative forms of energy especially since it is planned to use wind and not water to cool the plant.
What really blew me over was the fact that molten salt will be used to store energy within the plant. Although this project needs a great deal of land and only state with similar geographic features to those of California will be able to carry it out, it still remains as one of the best innovations to renewable energy. All I have to say about this is “High Five California!”; and just as mentioned in the blog by Orbi Dayrit, once the “small” detail of the economic crisis has passed this development will sky rocket.