First to Generate Energy at Night
The first solar plant that can operate without the sun has been officially opened.
The £260million Germasolar power plant has been designed to work even through the night and can store heat to power turbines for 15 hours without exposure to sunlight.
The plant – a tower with a glowing ‘bulb’ surrounded by 2,600 mirrors – is situated near Seville, one of the hottest places on the European mainland.
The plant is a heliostatic solar plant – a solar furnace – which uses mirrors to concentrate the intense heat onto two salt tanks. The 900C heat melts the salt, boiling water around it to drive turbines.
‘Renewable’ technology such as wind turbines is often hobbled by the fact that mankind is not master of the elements. If the wind dies down, the power goes off. The heat-storage of Germasolar’s tanks can clear this hurdle.
Makers Torresol say, ‘The salts are stored in a hot tank, saving the heat to be used when solar radiation is low. The salts transfer the stored heat and continue to generate electrical power through the night.’
Enqrique Sendagorta, of the engineering company behind the plant says, ‘We want to become a global company that develops the use of concentrated solar power. The start up of this plant is a first decisive step.’
The salts – a combination of sodium nitrate and potassium nitrate – always remain in liquid form. The plant is not at full capacity yet – it’s projected to reach 70 per cent capacity by next year.