Molten Salt Solar Plant Gets Fed Funding

Solar power, in terms of large-scale generation, tends to face two problems. One, how to get the most of out of the sun when it’s shining–and two, how to store that power at night, and for those days when clouds cover the sky. eSolar, Inc. and its project team member, Babcock & Wilcox Power Generation Group, Inc, think they may have a solution to both of these issues, and the U.S. Department of Energy seems to think so, too, as it recently selected these companies to receive up to $10.8 million to design, build and test a modular, baseload molten salt power plant using concentrated solar power (CSP).

This plant uses a field of mirrors to focus solar energy on a tower-mounted receiver, increasing the amount of power produced on a sunny day. From there, molten salt is used to transfer the heat energy concentrated on the receiver to a steam generator, which then produces steam to generate electricity. This molten salt can also be stored for later use, helping to solve that problem of intermittency posed by solar power, allowing the plant to generate electricity up to 18 hours a day.

Solar-One-Project

image via US DOE

“eSolar is honored to be placed in the company of industry leaders that are working to advance CSP’s market-readiness,” said eSolar CEO John Van Scoter, in a statement. “Together with B&W PGG, we will accelerate the research and development of economic storage solutions for CSP critical to the industry’s next stage of growth.” Bobcock & Wicox plan to reduce the costs of deploying a full-scale molten salt power-plant by building plant components in a factory and then shipping them to the site to be assembled; the project is expected to take approximately 2 ½ years to design, build and test.

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Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.