Planet Earth Weekly

Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet for Future Generations

Molten Salt: Storage for Solar Power

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Our greatest renewable resource--the sun!

Solar panels “download” the sun’s energy.

It uses the same melted  salt for the life of the power plant and receives a lifetime of energy from our greatest source of power—The Sun!

By Linn Smith

July 16, 2014— Can solar energy be stored? Yes! The first use of solar thermal energy equipment technology, that was recorded, was developed  in the Sahara Desert in about 1910, where a steam engine was powered using a mirror system for sunlight. The sunlight heated water, turning it into steam. But during WWI further development was abandoned because oil was abundant, and easily obtained.

Today, Solar Thermal Energy (STE) is being harnessed for the world’s largest solar plant which uses molten salt for storage—the Crescent Dunes Solar Plant in Nevada.

The Cycle of Solar Thermal Energy

Here’s how it works: A series of mirrors (heliostats) track the sun on two axes, concentrating the solar radiation on a receiver in the upper part of the tower where the heat is transferred to the molten salts. Molten salt is a perfect heat capture source, as it maintains its liquid state even above 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The sunlight heats up the salts and puts the molten salts in proximity to water via a heat exchanger–creating steam. The hot steam can then be made to turn turbines without losing much of the original absorbed solar energy. The salt is then piped back into another storage tank, where it is cooled and reheated later for the same process. Water is also recycled, as it travels back to a water holding tank where it will stay until needed again.

Crescent Dunes is the largest solar plant in the world using molten salt storage

The Crescent Dunes solar plant can store the sun’s energy to use during night or cloudy days.

Uninterrupted Solar

This process uses the stored solar to generate reliable, uninterrupted electricity to homes during the night or on cloudy days when direct solar power isn’t available or during peak demand hours when extra power is necessary. There is zero emissions or waste with the use of  Solar Thermal Energy. It uses the same melted  salt for the life of the plant and  receives a lifetime of energy from our greatest power source—The Sun!

Crescent Dunes Solar Plant is projected to be fully operational by the end of 2014,  providing power to up to 75,000 homes. According to SolarReserve,  the developer of Crescent Dunes and other large-scale solar energy projects, their goal is to, “Reduce the nation’s reliance on fossil energy supplies, producing enough solar energy in one year equivalent to about one-eighth of the total output of Hoover Dam. The project uses a hybrid cooling power system so that water use is at a strict minimum in this important desert ecosystem.”

Solar energy avoids greenhouse gas emissions produced by a fossil-fueled power plant.

Another step towards creating a healthy planet!

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Author: Planet Earth Weekly

My goal, as a responsible adult, is to leave a planet that people, plants, and animals can continue to occupy comfortably. I am an educator by profession. While educating myself on Climate Change and Renewable Resources, I hope to share my knowledge and images with those that share my concern. Dr. John J. Hidore is a retired professor from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and I am proud to call him my Uncle. His work has taken him to regions across the globe—including the Middle East, where he conducted research for a year in the Sudan. He has written many books, such as Climatology: An Atmospheric Science and Global Environmental Change.----Linn Smith

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