One of the anti-solar arguments often used is solar farms can’t produce electricity at night or in very low light conditions. It’s an argument that is rapidly running out of steam.
The Gemasolar project, located in the Spanish province of Andalucia, is the first fully-operational commercial-scale solar farm in the world able to provide baseload electricity generation – 24 hours a day, and for much of the year.
The Gemasolar Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) facility’s ability to generate power during the night is due to the incorporation of molten salt battery technology.
Thousands of mirrors, known as heliostats, reflect sunlight onto a receiver containing a fluid that is heated to generate steam, which is then used to drive a turbine to create electricity. The surplus heat accumulated during favourable conditions is stored in a molten-salt tank and can provide enough stored energy for 15 hours of electricity production.
According to the consortium behind the solar farm, Torresol Energy, the system guarantees reliable electricity production for 6,500 hours a year; up to 3 times more than other forms of renewable energy installations.
The 19.9 megawatt plant will supply clean electricity to 25,000 homes and avoid over 30,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually.
“Gemasolar is a revolution in the CSP sector, as the standardization of this new technology will mean a real reduction in the investment costs for solar plants. The commercial operation of this plant will lead the way for other central tower plants with molten salt receiver technology, an efficient system that improves the dispatchability of electric power from renewable sources,” said Enrique Sendagorta, Chairman of Torresol Energy.
Spain is one of the world’s leaders in the uptake of renewable energy. In 2009, renewables accounted for 12.5 per cent of total energy generation in the country and is expected to reach 20 per cent by 2020.
Torresol Energy is a joint venture between Masdar and SENER.