Saturday, March 24, 2012

Solar Power Even At Night

Liquid salt, it turns out, has some interesting applications in the field of energy power plants.

Today, lets look at two methods that use liquid salt.

The first one is a solar thermal power plant in Spain, a power plant that gets around one weakness of solar power, which is, that the Sun is not always visible due to weather, and it is not available at night.

There is a salty solution to that problem:

"It is the first station in the world that works 24 hours a day, a solar power station that works day and night!" said Santago Arias, technical director of Torresol Energy, which runs the station.

The mechanism is "very easy to explain," he said: the panels reflect the suns rays on to the tower, transmitting energy at an intensity 1,000 times higher than that of the sun's rays reaching the earth.

Energy is stored in a vat filled with molten salts at a temperature of more than 500 degrees C (930 F). Those salts are used to produce steam to turn the turbines and produce electricity.

It is the station's capacity to store energy that makes Gemasolar so different because it allows the plant to transmit power during the night, relying on energy it has accumulated during the day.

"I use that energy as I see fit, and not as the sun dictates," Arias explained.

(Solar Power Even At Night).Imagine a smart power grid built with these liquid salt storage facilities all along it.

As power needs fluctuate downward, energy going into the grid, whether solar thermal, solar photo-voltaic, wind, and other methods, is stored for later use when the fluctuation goes upward again.

Another place liquid salt is used for power generation has been around for quite a while.

The administrator of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, top physicist Alvin M. Weinberg, wanted a Thorium Molten-Salt Reactor (MSR), but was fired by Nixon for advocating MSR.

The following video describes MSR: