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A Tower of Molten Salt Will Deliver Solar Power After Sunset

For the first time, solar thermal can compete with natural gas during nighttime peak demand

3 min read
A Tower of Molten Salt Will Deliver Solar Power After Sunset
Pillar Of Salt: More than a million square meters of mirrors focus on a tower of molten salt to generate power for the Las Vegas Strip.
Photo: SolarReserve

Solar power projects intended to turn solar heat into steam to generate electricity have struggled to compete amid tumbling prices for solar energy from solid-state photovoltaic (PV) panels. But the first commercial-scale implementation of an innovative solar thermal design could turn the tide. Engineered from the ground up to store some of its solar energy, the 110-megawatt plant is nearing completion in the Crescent Dunes near Tonopah, Nev. It aims to simultaneously produce the cheapest solar thermal power and to dispatch that power for up to 10 hours after the setting sun has idled photovoltaics.

“When the grid wants 110 MW, we’ll provide 110 MW. There will be no variability,” says Kevin Smith, CEO for SolarReserve, the plant’s developer, based in Santa Monica, Calif.

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Greg Mably


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