This post reports on the newly announced loan guarantees for the concentrated solar power (CSP) Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project that is to be built in Nevada. This kind of solar power, because it is paired with a molten salt thermal energy storage capacity has the ability to be a load following generation source that is somewhat insulated from intermittency issues as well. For large concentrated solar thermal energy this decoupling of the energy collection from electricity generation makes a lot of sense, because the molten salt is already being used as the working fluid that captures the sun’s heat.
In another sign that concentrated solar power paired with molten salt thermal energy storage is gaining adoption, Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu announced the offer of a conditional commitment for a $737 million loan guarantee to support a 110 megawatt molten salt concentrating solar power (CSP) tower generating facility to be built near Tonopah, Nevada. The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project will be the first of its kind in the United States and the tallest molten salt tower in the world. Located on 2,250 acres leased from the Bureau of Land Management SolarReserve, LLC, which is the lead company on this project, anticipates the facility will create 600 construction jobs and 45 operations jobs.
Concentrated solar power that is paired with a molten salt thermal storage capacity, using the molten salt both as the thermal working fluid that captures heat energy from the sun and as an energy storage mechanism that decouples energy capture from the generation of electricity enables this form of solar power to smooth out intermittency problems and to time shift its provision of electric power to the periods of peak demand when it is most needed.
This interesting and beneficial potential is explored further in our related post: “Does Concentrated Solar Power Have the Answer to Intermittency Concerns?“
“Nevada continues to be a leader when it comes to the generation of renewable energy, and this project will not only create hundreds of jobs in the state but will also bring additional clean energy to the region,” said Secretary Chu.
“Today’s announcement is about one thing: creating good paying clean energy jobs right here in Nevada,” said U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. “Innovative companies like SolarReserve are helping ensure that Nevada can lead the nation in clean energy production, putting people back to work and pushing America toward energy independence. They deserve all the public and private support we can muster. ”
The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project has several innovative features, including a 640-foot tall solar power structure and a molten salt-based collection and storage system that will capture and focus the sun’s thermal energy with as many as 17,500 heliostats. The molten salt storage system allows the sun’s thermal energy to be stored for up to ten hours, permitting steady, uninterrupted power during peak electricity demand, despite cloud cover, and even at night. This increases grid stability and reduces the need for carbon pollution emitting generators, which currently supplement intermittent renewable generation technologies during periods of no or low solar resource. The molten salt technology was demonstrated at the Solar Two facility in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Molten salt thermal storage is naturally suited for this type of tower based concentrated solar power. The highly concentrated solar thermal energy is directly stored — with no need to transform energy from one form to another and take the conversion hit. The hot molten salt can be used as it is needed within a ten hour time frame. Because of this the solar plant can become a load following generation source.
To read more about molten salt energy storage and many other grid scale energy storage technologies that are being developed or already are deployed see our related post: “Fifteen Grid Scale Energy Storage Solutions to Watch“.
The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy facility is expected to avoid nearly 290,000 tons of carbon pollution annually, or the equivalent of 20 percent of the annual generation of an average coal-fired plant in the U.S. The project is also expected to produce approximately 500,000 megawatt hours annually, enough to power over 43,000 homes. Power from the project will be sold to Nevada Power Company, a utility subsidiary of NV Energy, Inc. and will help NV Energy meet its Renewable Portfolio Standard goals for Nevada as well as its evening load requirements.
The Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office supports the deployment of commercial technologies along with innovative technologies that avoid, reduce or sequester greenhouse gas emissions. To date, the program has committed over $8 billion in loan guarantees to solar generation projects. DOE has also committed financing to support numerous other projects, such as four of the world’s largest solar projects, two geothermal projects, the world’s largest wind farm and the nation’s first new nuclear power plant in three decades. For more information, please visit the Loan Programs Office website.
Our related post: “Is the Concentrated Photovoltaic Sector Heating Up?“, explores another form of solar power that is showing signs of entering into a phase of very rapid growth.
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