This is a big deal. Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant, the world’s first utility-scale concentrating solar power plant, is now online in Nevada producing power 24/7. Unlike solar photovoltaic, CSP can generate electricity continually. It does so by reflecting the heat of the sun to a central tower where the heat turns water into steam to power turbines. Excess heat is stored in molten salt and released at night when the sun isn’t out to continue generating electricity.
The steam is cooled back into water and reused over and over so water usage is low. NV Energy is purchasing all energy from Crescent Dunes for 25 years. The price is about double that of natural gas power and the plant received $737 million in federal loan guarantees.
So far the molten salt technology is performing better than expected. Full output is 110 MW, enough for 75,000 homes.
The technology uses tracking mirrors, called heliostats, to focus the sun’s energy onto a receiver to directly heat molten salt and then store it so electricity can be produced day and night.
The key intellectual property (IP) is comprised of SolarReserve’s molten salt technology, which includes the molten salt receiver designed and manufactured by SolarReserve, the heliostat collector field controls and tracking system, as well as the molten salt energy storage system. The molten salt receiver, which is the heart of the system, is performing in excess of design expectations in terms of heat transfer efficiency. This is the key performance validation of SolarReserve’s world-leading solar thermal storage technology developed in the United States.