Abengoa is not the only company receiving grants from the Department of Energy for the development of utility-scale solar thermal power plants. Green Car Congress tells us that Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne received an award of up to $10.2 million from the Department of Energy to design and develop technologies aimed at significantly lowering electricity costs using a Concentrated Solar Power Tower with Thermal Storage (CSP Power Tower).
As envisioned, the Rice Energy Project would use 17,500 large mirrors – each one 24 feet by 28 feet — attached to 12-foot-hight pedestals. The mirrors, called heliostats, will be arrayed in a circle around a 538-foot-tall concrete tower. Atop the tower will sit a 100-foot-tall 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. The liquefied salt flows through a steam generating system to drive the turbine and then is returned to the receiver to be heated again.
Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne has developed designs for CSP Power Tower technology that use thousands of articulating mirrors, or heliostats, to track the sun and reflect solar energy onto a receiver mounted atop a 600-foot-tall tower. Liquefied molten salt is circulated into the receiver, where it is heated to about 1,000 °F (about 538 °C), then stored in a large insulated tank.
The energy from this stored molten salt is available on-demand to drive a steam turbine to create electricity. Because hot molten salt can be stored for days with little heat-loss, it can be used at night or on cloudy days to generate electricity. Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne has provided the worldwide exclusive license to SolarReserve, a solar power project company, for the molten salt power tower and heliostat technologies.
As part of the DOE contract to lower costs and increase CSP Power Tower capacity, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne will use its engineering expertise to optimize system performance and efficiency; use advanced manufacturing techniques that better absorb energy into the receiver; develop a higher-performance, lower-cost second-generation heliostat system; and incorporate a new thermal storage system.
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