Say, “solar salt stores sun by the sea shore” 10 times real fast to see if you have command of your S’s. Okay, then don’t. With Wall Street financial firms falling like dominos recently the sun is still shining on one solar energy company, SolarReserve.
One of the largest problems with utility scale production of solar energy is that the sun is an intermittent source of power. So, solar firms have struggled with how to store the excess energy their power plants create for night and cloudy days.
Some have tried different forms of batteries and hydrogen is another solution being developed. But, SolarReserve has taken a novel approach and that is to store the sun’s light with salt, molten salt. SolarReserve has just captured $140 million in funding to develop its molten salt storage process with capacity of more than 5,000 megawatts across the globe.
They plan to put up medium scale photovoltaic power plants from 50 MW to 300 MW, mostly in the Mediterranean where the sun is shining, governmental incentives are steep and regulations are few.
The SolarReserve molten salt is stored as heat in a reservoir and converted back to electrical power as needed or wanted when conditions are favorable. For instance, when air conditioning is blasting mid-summer and brownouts imminent both solar panels and salt reservoir could be used to supply extra energy to the grid.
In addition, at night or on cloudy days the molten salt can be tapped for its heat for several days without replenishment. Of course, SolarReserve isn’t necessarily the salt of the earth as they will also act like any corporation and sell electricity back to the grid for the highest price point possible.
Basically, a bunch of concentrating solar mirrors are set up around a receiving tower that turns the salt molten and stores it in an underground reservoir. The U. S. DOT in its Solar Two project tested this idea in Barstow, California giving the plan the thumbs up.
So, the next time you pour a little table salt on your meal remember that this may just be the future storage solution for the sun. With any luck (throw a pinch of salt over your left shoulder) this novel idea with be on the non-fiction shelves and on the Best Sellers list in short order.