Solar Venture Will Draw on Molten Salt


Wall Street Journal – January 2, 2008

As the price of fossil based fuels continues to increase dramatically, other sources of energy begin to be more cost effective. This, combined with the increase pressure due to global warming concerns, has propagated the use of alternative fuels such as solar farms that capture the sun’s energy.

This story relates how a United Technologies company is starting a new venture that uses an old technique for storing energy. Only the current economic situation of today would allow for this to be a profitable venture. UT should not be overly commended here since all they are doing is taking advantage of a market condition and trying to make a business satisfying a need. I am confident that should the price of crude suddenly drop by 50%, UT would cancel this venture as fast as one would jump when touching molten salt.

Hamilton Sundstrand is scheduled to announce today that it has teamed with US Renewables Group to commercialize a new type of solar-power plant that will use molten salt to store the sun’s heat so it can be converted to electrical power even when the sun isn’t shining. Company officials say rising fossil-fuel prices have made it possible for such plants to be competitive, particularly for generating electricity during periods of peak demand when utility companies pay premium prices.

…estimated that Hamilton Sundstrand can generate a total of about $1 billion in sales of solar-power equipment in the next 15 years.


Hamilton Sundstrand officials say the solar-power business will be managed through a new entity called SolarReserve, which will hold the exclusive license to market and operate utility-scale solar-power plants world-wide.

Mr. Bailey said US Renewables has invested in geothermal, biomass and other environmentally friendly power projects, but it hadn’t found an appropriate solar technology until it learned of Rocketdyne’s method of using molten salt to hold heat. According to the company, molten salt loses only about 1% of its heat during a day, making it possible to store energy for long periods of time. The salt is a mixture of sodium and potassium nitrate.

While it might be promising for some areas, so-called concentrated solar-power stations will likely represent only a small part of the world’s power-generation needs. They are most suited for regions that have a combination of predominantly sunny climate and large open spaces that can handle the 1,200-acre field of mirrors, called heliostats, needed to reflect the sun’s energy to a 600-foot tower that houses the receiver for collecting the sun’s energy. Ideal locations include the U.S. Southwest as well as southern Europe, Australia and Africa.

You can read the full article on this subject here.

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