A new and revolutionary solar power project has been recently approved by the state of California. SolarReserve is the company behind the Rice Solar Energy Project, which will store heat from thermal collectors in molten salt beneath the surface.
Molten salts have been tinkered with for a while, because they can store heat at over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The advantage is that, during the night, the system continues to provide electricity… from the Sun.
Hundreds of mirrored heliostats covering an area of two square miles are focused on a tower that collects thermal energy, melts a salt reserve, and transfers it to the tank below, from where it is released when needed. This is actually the innovation that SolarReserve brings to the technology.
The company already has a 25-years contract with PG&E. For the price involved in building and operating it is very much reduced, the produced energy will be cheaper than coal or gas, making this kind of thermal solar project an example for others. A similar experiment has been built in Italy, and it’s called Archimede.
A substance called fulvalene diruthenium has also been studied as a cheaper replacement for molten salts, and may probably constitute an idea to others who will have the resources to build such projects.