Are Molten Salt Concentrated Solar Power Plants A Thing Of The Past?
Updated: Dec 23, 2022
Vector Sustainable Energy think so!
Concentrated solar power (CSP) is a promising energy capture technology that uses optical devices to concentrate the power of the sun on to a surface, generating power by means of a thermal-to-electric conversion unit.
CSP technology integrates thermal energy storage materials to solve the current problem of solar energy discontinuity as observed in Photovoltaic cells (solar panels). Thermal energy storage materials have the ability to store heat and thus enable power production in the absence of sunlight or in poor weather conditions.
Current thermal energy storage materials used to store energy is a binary molten salt mixture (solar salt). Molten salts carry with-it high capital costs and high maintenance and operation costs due to a number of reasons.
A high cost of 14 ₵/kWh deems this technology uneconomical compared to other renewable and conventional energy technologies even though it has zero carbon emissions.
Must be kept heated at approximately 200°C to prevent freezing and solidifying in pipes.
High viscosity has a negative impact on pump performance.
Costly materials ~ $24/kWth.
All the above increase the levelised cost of energy of molten salt tower CSP plants to ~ 14 ₵/kWh with approximately 8 hours of storage.
All the above increase the levelised cost of energy of molten salt tower CSP plants to ~ 14 ₵/kWh with approximately 8 hours of storage. A high cost of 14 ₵/kWh deems this technology uneconomical compared to other renewable and conventional energy technologies even though it has zero carbon emissions.
On the other hand, solar panels at a utility scale has over the years seen more than an 80% reduction in the cost to ~ 4 ₵/kWh. However, solar panels can not produce power in the absence of sunlight which leaves us without energy at night. Yes, batteries can be used to store excess power in the daytime but this will be very expensive more that CSP plants. This now leaves solar power technologies in a bit of a predicament.
All is not lost!
Vector Sustainable Energy has this covered with their novel concentrated solar power system. This technology can substantially reduce the levelised cost of energy for CSP plants to be less than 5₵/kWh with more thermal storage to keep us powered at night for less. Vector Sustainable Energy is currently developing a prototype of their technology to commercialise, generating low cost sustainable clean energy for the future.