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Santa Monica company promises to deliver solar power all night long

Ever been to a night club that runs on solar power? No, because it’s a night club, right? Well, a company in Santa Monica called SolarReserve is out to change that. As reported in the New York Times, they have plans to build a “solar farm” in the Sonoran Desert, east of Plam Springs, which would have the ability to store the energy of the day for use at night. You’re probably thinking really big


IWhat the plant might look like,
From SolarReserve

rechargeable batteries, but in fact these plants will store the energy in salt.

The planned plant is a solar thermal plant, one that uses focused sunlight to generate heat which is used to make steam and turn turbine generators. The proposed plant works like this: A field of mirrors covering about two square miles is focused on a tower of about 600 feet in height. At the top of the tower is a tank of liquid salt (similar in composition to garden fertilizer). The salt is heated up to over 1000 degrees Fahrenheit and is then transferred into storage tanks that can keep it hot for hours.

When electricity is needed, day or night, the molten salt flows into a heat exchanger and turns water into steam, which turns turbines, which makes electricity, which keeps the beats pumping at the night club. When its heat is spent, the cooled salt is pumped back into the tower to be reheated. Best part? The entire process generates no emissions at all.

This technology has been proven to work at a pilot plant in Barstow back in the 90s, but, according to the Los Angeles Times, “…the complex was shuttered in 1999 when the cost of natural gas fell to one-tenth of what it is today.”

One megawatt can power 500-1000 US homes for a year. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The company says plants using this method will be able to generate as much as 500 megawatts of peak power or run continuously at 50 megawatts.” That’s 24 hours of solar power.

The planned plant would generate 150 megawatts, and is scheduled to open in late 2013, barring complications. For more, visit SolarReserve’s web site. They have an FAQ, links to more articles and more on the technology.

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