Photo credit: wordlesstech
Gemasolar Power Plant is the world’s first solar power station that generates electricity at night. The plant is the first in the world to use central tower receiver and molten salt heat storage technology. Gemasolar was inaugurated on October 4, 2011. The project was built by Torresol Energy which represents a joint venture between Sener (a Spanish multinational technology leader) and Masdar (an alternative power company in Abu Dhabi). The project was constructed in two years and cost £260 million.
How it works
Gemasolar is based on a type of technology which uses the sun’s energy to heat a fluid (water, synthetic oil or molten salt). The heated fluid generates stream which then drives a turbine to generate electricity. This type of technology is named Concentrating Solar Power (CSP).
Gemasolar is spread across 185 hectares of rural land near Seville in southern Spain and is composed by 2,650 mirrored panels, known as heliostats. These mirrors focus 95% of the sun’s radiation onto a giant receiver found on top of a 140 meters tower placed in the center of the plant. The receiver is heated to a temperature of about 565 degrees Celsius (1,050 degrees Farenheit) by the sunlight.
The energy generated throughout the day it is stored by two tanks of molten salt that allows the solar plant to generate on-demand electricity (during the evening, when is raining or when is cloud).
The two solar salt batteries are safe for the environment because are thermal not chemistry-based. The batteries are based on a combination of 60% potassium nitrate and 40% sodium nitrate that help retain most of the heat for up to 24 hours. More precisely just 1% of the heat energy is lost per day.
Gemasolar is expected to have an annual production of 110 GWh which is the equivalent of the energy generated in a conventional thermal plant where are burnt 89,000 tons of lignite.
The plant ensures electrical production for 6,500 hours annually, which represents 1.5 to 3 times more than other renewable energies. Gemasolar can supply clean power to 25,000 homes and a reduction of CO2 emission by more than 30,000 tons a year.
Take a look at this short video made in the middle of the heliostats:
The commercial operation of Gemasolar is expected to lead the way for other central tower plants with molten salt receiver technology. The main advantage of this new technology is the reduction of investment costs.
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