A very large solar power plant in Spain produces electricity even at night. It does so by storing heat produced in the day with its 2,600 mirrored heliostats, in molten salts which reach temperatures of 500 degrees Celsius. The molten salt battery storage system can retain heat for 16 hours. Energy held in the salts is used to make steam, which turn turbines to generate electricity.
In summer, so much heat is generated and stored the plant can run twenty four hours a day. The amount of energy produced at the plant powers about 30,000 households. What makes such power generation possible are thousands of heliostats which concentrate sunlight by 1,000 times. One of the chief criticisms of solar power is the limited availability of sunlight, but energy storage systems like molten salts are one answer.
A subsidy of five million Euros from the European Commission supported construction of the plant and it is expected to make back the total investment of over $200 million Euros in 18 years.
Spain is a world leader in solar power due to abundant sunshine, and cooperation between the government and private sector to move the country forward. Regardless of politics, renewable energy is the wave of the future, because fossil fuels do too much damage to public health and the planet’s climate. Drilling and mining also can cause far too much destruction of wild habitats, which are already shrinking due to overpopulation. Additionally, the human population is growing and even more energy will be consumed in the future, but it makes zero sense to use the worst fossil fuel energy in the future and produce even more pollution than we have now.
Image Credit: kjkolb
The power tower pictured above is not the exact one in Spain, but is similar.