Solana Power, southwest of Phoenix, Arizona is ready to come online as the first solar plant in the U.S. to use molten salt for energy storage. It has taken $2 billion in funding, and a Department of Energy loan guarantee to reach this point. It has also added 2 million jobs.
The plant features hundreds of parabolic-shaped mirrors that concentrate the sun’s rays to produce electricity as well as molten salt-based thermal energy storage.
The majority of solar farms already use these parabolic mirrors to convert sunlight to electricity, but they are just now starting to adopt energy storing technology; particularly so there is still energy being produced even when the sun goes down or is behind a cloud. Solana Power is the first in the U.S. to start producing and storing that energy.
The way Solana achieves this is by having tanks of molten salt that hold high amounts of heat for long periods of time. When the sun is out, the farm produces that heat and some of it is pumped into the molten salt tanks which allows energy to keep flowing for another six hours, even at night. Although solar energy is a viable alternative to fossil fuels such as coal or natural gas, it has been criticized for not being a continuous source of energy. This is no longer true with Solana Power.
The farm cost $2 billion to build, but was rewarded a $1.45 billion loan guarantee. However, Solana will provide electricity for 70,000 households, or 280 MW, which makes up for the cost. Now with energy storing technology, it is hopeful farms like this can be set up elsewhere in the U.S.