A California based company called SolarReserve is planning to build a 150-megawatt heliostat solar farm that will continue to generate energy even after sun goes down. The new solar farm could store seven hours’ worth of the sun’s energy in the form of molten salt. It could be the first heliostat type of solar array that will generate grid power in California.
During the night or when it’s cloudy, heat from the salt can be released to create steam that drives an electricity-generating turbine. According to SolarReserve’s license application, the new plant dubbed Rice Solar Energy Project, is planned to be built in the Sonoran Desert east of Palm Springs, and will “generate steady and uninterrupted power during hours of peak electricity demand.”
The new solar farm will be based on the use of 17,500 large mirrors called heliostats which will be arrayed in a circle around a 538-foot concrete tower. Each one will measures between 24 – 28 feet, being attached to 12-foot pedestals.
These mirrors will concentrate sunlight onto a 100-foot receiver filled with 4.4 million gallons of liquid salt. The heliostats will focus the sun on the receiver, heating the salt to 1,050 degrees Fahrenheit. To drive the turbine, the liquefied salt flows through a steam-generating system, then being returned to the receiver to be heated again.
The company claims that the solar farm to be online in October 2013, until that it is negotiating with California utilities to buy the electricity generated from the Rice project.