Good to see the government investing big money in alternative energy.
Originally posted on Gigaom:
After almost three years of construction, $2 billion in funding, a controversial Department of Energy loan guarantee, and 2,000 jobs created, a large and unique solar farm about 70 miles southwest of Phoenix, Arizona, is now ready to produce power. This is Solana, developed by Spanish engineering powerhouse Abengoa, and it uses hundreds of parabolic-shaped mirrors that concentrate the suns rays to produce electricity as well as an industry first deployment of molten salt-based thermal energy storage technology.
Most of the solar farms that use these types of mirrors and lenses to concentrate sun light to produce heat and drive turbines, are turning to energy storage technologies to produce power when the sun goes down or behind a cloud. But Solana is the first one to actually start using it in the U.S. In contrast to this type of concentrating solar technology, solar panels convert the sun’s light directly into electricity.
At Solana, the energy storage technology uses tanks of molten salt that hold high amounts of heat for long periods of time. When the sun is out full blast, the solar farm produces a lot of heat and pumps some of that into the molten salt tanks. When the sun goes behind a cloud, or at night, the farm can turn to the energy storage tech to offer power for another six hours. One of the criticisms of solar tech is that it can’t provide continuous power the way that a coal or natural gas plant can, so energy storage tech is a way to make solar more competitive.