165 Metre High Solar Tower Completed

The Crescent Dunes solar thermal power plant is one step closer to producing clean energy from the Nevada desert sun, with the company announcing the completion of a 540-foot (165-metre)-high receiver tower at the site.
    
At a capacity of 110 megawatts (MW), which is enough to provide electricity to up to 75,000 homes, SolarReserve says the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant will be the nation’s first commercial-scale solar power facility to fully integrate molten salt energy storage. It will also be the largest solar power plant of its kind in the world. 
   
Molten salt storage systems allow solar farms to generate power overnight by storing heat collected during the day in tanks containing a special type of salt. That heat is then used to generate steam and drive turbines.
    
SolarReserve says the US-developed molten salt technology used at the Crescent Dunes plant has the ability to store energy for 10-15 hours, “solving the issue of intermittent power generation to the grid.”
   
The plant is jointly owned by SolarReserve and solar thermal developer, ACS Cobra. Funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s loans guarantee scheme along with investment capital from banking firm Santander and a 25-year power purchase agreement with NV Energy ensured the project’s go-ahead.
   
Construction began on the massive tower back in September 2011, atop which will sit a solar receiver to collect heat reflected by thousands of heliostat arrays laid out across the desert floor. 
    
The company is hailing Crescent Dunes as a coup for Nevadan employment, with more than 600 jobs expected on site during the 30-month construction period. An estimated 4,300 direct, indirect and induced jobs will be created at companies throughout the U.S.; providing engineering, equipment supply and manufacturing, transportation and other value-added services.
   
“Once operational,” reads a statement from SolarReserve, “the project will expend more than $10 million per year in salaries and operating costs, and is forecasted to generate $47 million in total tax revenues through the first 10 years of operation.”
   
Other plants using molten salt energy storage are already in operation, albeit nowhere near as large as Crescent Dunes will be.  The Gemasolar project was 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.