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kunal
kunal • Aug 9, 2011

Startup Brightsource To Build The Largest Solar Thermal Station

Green tech startup firm Brightsource is planning to install new solar storage systems that can double the solar power production. This approach is completely different from the traditional photovoltaic that requires the sun to shine on for power production. The company aims to provide 24 hour solar energy and is going to build the world’s largest solar thermal station in Ivanpah, California. This solar thermal power plant built by the Oakland, California based firm will be having a tremendous capacity of 392-megawatts and will make electricity from solar energy available at a price that is comparable to that from other resources.

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The power tower of the storage system

The solar thermal system doesn’t need bright sunshine for its entire duration. It can easily cope up with the minor fluctuations in the amount of sunlight available at different times of a day. It can do so because it doesn’t convert the solar energy directly into electricity but stores the sunlight as heat or thermal energy. The sunlight gets stored by heating a mixture of salts that have a very high melting point and great heat absorbing capacity. This is nothing new and this fact has been known to the scientists for the past 10 years. However, the new technology makes the procedure simpler and cost effective. The fluid salt, which is generally a combination of sodium and potassium nitride, is heated till it melts and then made to flow through a heat exchanger chamber to produce stem. Brightsource CEO, John Woolard told that the main thing that makes his firm’s technology a little bit better, efficient, cost effective and more productive is the fact that it uses power towers that have mirrors all around them for focusing the sunlight all the time. This design allows it to attain higher temperatures with lesser amount of salt making it a good bargain. A similar research was carried out by the MIT scientists but at that time no company had come forth to apply this knowledge for practical purpose. A detailed report is available about it on VoiCE.

It is a well known fact that the steam turbines and generating mechanism for producing energy is a costly setup. However, storage can double up the productivity as the generator can work at night using the stored energy and thus the costs can be quickly recovered. Brightsource's storage system increases the hours for which a generator can produce electricity in a year from 2700 to 4,300 hours. That’s a tremendous increment and will supposedly bring down the energy cost per kilowatt production by a huge margin of 25-30% as per a research by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado.

Source: - Technology Review Image: - CNET News

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