Late last year, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar approved the use of federal land for the Crescent Dunes power project, a proposed 110 megawatt power plant in Nevada that could be the first and largest concentrated solar plant to use molten salt energy storage technology in the U.S. We have now learned that the feds continue to back the Crescent Dunes power project as the U.S. Department of Energy recently announced a conditional commitment for a loan guarantee on the order of $737 million to project sponsor SolarReserve.
Crescent Dunes is to be located right between Reno and Las Vegas on Bureau of Land Management property near Tonopah, Nevada. The project is expected to utilize a 640 foot tall solar power tower that is surrounded by field of parabolic mirrors which focus sunlight onto the tower. The tower is designed to harnesses the heat generated by the light and feed it into salt compound that is liquefied by the heat. The heat that is stored is used to create steam for electricity generation.
This molten salt approach is said to be capable of storing heat for up to 10 hours, which allows the power plant to provide electricity consistently, even on cloudy days or after sunset, and keep the power flowing during peak-demand hours. Molten salt storage is also being used at the Rice Solar Energy Project in California, another of SolarReserve’s projects.
SolarReserve says it expects the Crescent Dunes project will create more than 600 jobs at the project site over the anticipated 30-month construction period which is due to begin later this summer. If completed on time in 2013, the facility is expected to generate enough solar energy to supply about 75,000 homes with power during peak electricity periods.