A new company has entered the thermal solar field. Per their press release:
Hamilton Sundstrand, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp. [NYSE: UTX], and US Renewables Group have formed a new entity, SolarReserve, to commercialize the concentrated solar power tower technology and corresponding molten salt storage system developed by Rocketdyne. This renewable technology will enable utility-scale solar power generation. It is designed to meet a utility's needs with a single installation capable of producing up to 500 MW of peak power.
"Due to the unique ability of the product to store the energy it captures, this system will function like a conventional hydroelectric power plant, but with several advantages. We will have the capability to store the sun's energy and release it on demand. This product is more predictable than water reserves, the supply is free and inexhaustible, and the environmental impact is essentially zero."
Lee Bailey, managing director of US Renewables Group (USRG)
The technology was originally demonstrated in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy at the Solar Two facility in Barstow, Calif. The unique component of the HS Rocketdyne power tower is the central receiver. This high heat flux hardware represents a unique combination of liquid rocket engine heat transfer technology and molten salt handling expertise.
From the WSJ (link only good for 7 days):
Hamilton Sundstrand's Rocketdyne segment will provide heat-resistant pumps and other equipment, as well as the expertise in handling and storing salt that has been heated to more than 1,050 degrees Fahrenheit. . . .
According to the company, molten salt loses only about 1% of its heat during a day, making it possible to store energy for long periods of time. The salt is a mixture of sodium and potassium nitrate.
The technology is expected to be available within three or four years. A representative said the company expects to realize revenue of more than $1 billion in the next 10 years.
Hamilton Standard recently to receive two contracts from DOE to help develop this process. Under one contract Hamilton Sundstrand will validate the manufacturability of a large molten salt receiver panel and confirm its operation in prototypic solar flux to reduce the cost of CSP power tower technology through economies of scale. DOE will provide up to $320,000 of the $400,000 project.
In the second project it will design, build, and test a long-shafted, molten salt pump that will enable large scale thermal storage system of commercial-scale CSP parabolic trough plants. DOE will provide up to $362,000 of this $452,000 project.
A brief explanation of solar power tower technology, see earlier post:
Solar power towers consist of a large field of sun-tracking mirrors, called heliostats, which focus solar energy on a receiver atop a centrally located tower. The energy, coming from the sun rays, concentrated at one point (the tower in the middle), produces temperatures of approx. 550°C to 1500°C. The gained thermal energy can be used for heating water or molten salt, which saves the energy for later use.
Heated water is converted to steam, which is used to drive the turbine-generator converting the thermal energy into electricity.
Several parabolic trough power plants under development in Spain plan to use molten salt energy storage.
Thermal solar is currently the lowest cost solar technology, $0.08-$0.14 per kWh, for producing solar power and it is good to see another player, with hopefully some new technology, enter the field.