Last year SolarReserve quietly brought its Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project online for testing. Now the 110 megawatt facility is expected to reach its full annual production this year. While concentrated solar power (CSP) hasn’t been as popular in the U.S. as photovoltaic solar panels, but it has some advantages—namely that with thermal storage it can provide solar power around the clock without the need for batteries.
SolarReserve said it’s the first utility-scale solar facility to deliver solar electric power to the grid for all 24 hours of the day. It provides enough electric to power 75,000 homes of NV Energy’s customers during peak production.
“As renewable energy penetration grows, the need for cost-effective, utility-scale renewable generation with storage technology is becoming increasingly important for mitigating intermittency problems, delivering power into peak demand periods and supporting transmission system reliability,” said Kevin Smith, SolarReserve’s CEO. “Our proven U.S.-developed energy storage technology deployed at the Crescent Dunes facility is already being used as a blueprint for projects in these emerging markets.”
Unlike solar panels the CSP system focusses the sun’s thermal energy, via heliostats, on a central tower. The heat energy is transferred to molten salt, which is used to power a steam turbine. The excess thermal energy is stored in molten salt between 550 degrees Fahrenheit to 1050 degrees Fahrenheit and to produce electricity as needed.
“This project is an excellent example of that collaboration and Nevadans should be proud to have this engineering and clean energy marvel in their state,” said Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid.
The project, according to SolarReserve, has now passed the test to reach full commercial operation under its 25-year power-purchase agreement (PPA) with NV Energy, Nevada’s largest electric utility. “The validation of SolarReserve’s revolutionary solar energy storage technology is significant for the future of clean power generation on our planet, as this technology solves the intermittency issues experienced with other renewable energy sources, enabling the delivery of renewable baseload and dispatchable power that can compete head-to-head with traditional fossil-fired and nuclear electricity generation methods,” the company said.
“Crescent Dunes shows what the Silver State can accomplish with clean energy when we are serious about competing for investment in the global growth industry of the 21st century,” Reid said. “Nevada will benefit for decades as engineers and experts from around the world come to Tonopah to see what is possible when the public and private sectors come together to build the next generation of clean energy technology.”
Now that SolarReserve is proving its technology it will focus on other projects and other markets. “The climate deal unveiled in Paris has the potential to catalyze a global energy transformation. It will further accelerate implementation of renewables around the world, including within emerging markets such as Africa, Latin America and Asia,” Smith said. For instance, the South Africa Department of Energy selected SolarReserve’s 100 megawatt Redstone project with its 12 hours of full load energy storage. It also has the 260 megawatt Copiapó Solar Project in Chile and is looking at China where the government announced plans for 10 gigawatts of CSP by 2020.Tweet