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Power Technology

World's First Molten-Salt Solar Plant Opens 316

An anonymous reader writes "Sicily has just announced the opening of the world's first concentrated solar power (CSP) facility that uses molten salt as a heat collection medium. Since molten salt is able to reach very high temperatures (over 1000 degrees Fahrenheit) and can hold more heat than the synthetic oil used in other CSP plants, the plant is able to continue to produce electricity long after the sun has gone down. The Archimede plant has a capacity of 5 megawatts with a field of 30,000 square meters of mirrors and more than 3 miles of heat collecting piping for the molten salt. The cost for this initial plant was around 60 million Euros."
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World's First Molten-Salt Solar Plant Opens

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  • Already done? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 23, 2010 @12:58AM (#33000040)
    Um what? I swear I saw a documentary about a US plant which did the same thing (even looks the same) and that was years ago.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 23, 2010 @01:02AM (#33000054)

    Ok, so it can produce after the sun has gone down, but wouldn't the inverse be true, too, i.e. it'll take longer for it to reach a heat at which it can start producing in the morning? Anyone who didn't fail physics want to help an ignorant AC out?

  • by jamesh (87723) on Friday July 23, 2010 @01:22AM (#33000134)

    I don't think you'd have to heat up all of your thermal mass to start producing energy. If you only need a certain fraction of the thermal mass to produce the amount of energy you need then the rest can be a 'battery' that you charge up during the day when there is extra solar radiation going into your system.

  • by c0lo (1497653) on Friday July 23, 2010 @01:38AM (#33000206)

    Euro 60M is about 50 years payback at that rate. Or 25 years if it's 20c/kWH.

    As the plant buffers the energy to use it at night, I'd be inclined to use a 24 hours/day * 5 MW.
    Assuming that all the other calculations are correct, this would mean approx 21 years for the payback at 10c/kWh, or 10.5 years at 20c/kWh.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 23, 2010 @01:42AM (#33000216)

    A phrase one guy said back in the 50's, used often by anti-nuclear types, which needs to be retired.

  • by T Murphy (1054674) on Friday July 23, 2010 @01:54AM (#33000266) Journal
    The Sahara may be a good place for mass production of solar power, but for a first-of-its-kind plant, keeping it close to home is a safer move (assuming the firsts involved don't put the neighbors at risk), in addition to needing to prove it is worth scaling up as opposed to other designs. This plant isn't wildly different, but given the cost of power plants and the demand for power, reliable and proven technology is a must before going beyond small-scale.
  • by Sabriel (134364) on Friday July 23, 2010 @02:10AM (#33000308)

    I wish it would hurry up and come true instead.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 23, 2010 @02:30AM (#33000366)

    5MW for $60M (euro).. really?

    That's normal. First, it's a prototype. Second, it's Italy. Third, it's Sicily.

    The project started something like 20 years ago by the Nobel Prize laureate (physics) Carlo Rubbia. Seven different governments (both right-wing and center-left-wing) made every effort to cripple the project with bad management and bureaucratic issues. At the same time they poured heaps of money to dubious Sicilian consulting organisations. After a while (actually, after being dismissed from the environmental cabinet) Carlo Rubbia got tired of all these problems and flew to Spain where he built in 3 years six or seven similar plants for a tenth of their Italian price.

  • Re:Desalinization? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmaiYEATSl.com minus poet> on Friday July 23, 2010 @02:33AM (#33000388) Homepage

    Could this technology be combined with desalinization, i.e. take salt water, pull the salt out to produce potable water, and use the salt to improve the plant's efficiency?

    No, once the plant is charged with working fluid, you don't need to add any more.

  • Come on.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sisko (114628) on Friday July 23, 2010 @02:37AM (#33000412)

    What's this Fahrenheit rubbish?

  • by Deflatamouse! (132424) on Friday July 23, 2010 @02:38AM (#33000426) Homepage Journal

    In other words, there's value in the ability to produce energy at a constant rate, rather than in bursts. Because when it's produced in bursts, you will have to find a way to store it, which means a loss in efficiency.

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Friday July 23, 2010 @02:54AM (#33000512) Journal
    Yeah, and fusion will one day render liquid fluoride thorium reactors irrelevant, but they've built something now, and it's environmentally friendly, and as long as the cost is reasonable, who cares? They still have something good now.
  • by Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) on Friday July 23, 2010 @03:09AM (#33000574) Homepage

    Our 10MW natural gas turbine at work is about 4m wide, 8m long and 7m high.

    If your natural gas turbine doesn't generate the natural gas, you aren't giving the full story here though. You also need hundreds of miles of carefully sealed pipelines and/or freight infrastructure, you also need the refining and mining infrastructure, and you need to factor in the cost for exploration and developing the mine in the first place, with all the dead ends that implies. Natural gas might be cheap but its often subsidised at source, but hey so what you say, I don't pay it. If you live in Europe and the Russians want to extract a trade agreement or something from you, the cost of that natural gas might suddenly start to fluctuate wildly however.

    And thats the full story.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 23, 2010 @03:40AM (#33000668)

    This is the FIRST plant, what it cost is pretty meaningless. You need to ask what it would cost to deploy and run the next 1000 plants. Experience will accumulate, production will be scaled up and competition emerge.

  • by Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) on Friday July 23, 2010 @03:54AM (#33000736) Homepage
    To keep them operational? Nothing at all. I guess sunlight if you wanted to be pedantic.
  • by dbIII (701233) on Friday July 23, 2010 @04:21AM (#33000872)
    Here we go again.
    There is no "one true energy" because that is instead called putting all of your eggs in one basket. Anyone that tells you otherwise is either selling something or is gullible enough to have been conned by somebody that is. Thus even if there was an actual physical LFTR in existence it would not render all other forms of electricity production irrelevant.
    Also we've got a hell of a long way to go before the practical details of working with molten radioactive materials are sorted out. I can't wait to see the "safe, clean" spin get put on liquid fluoride instead of treating it with the respect it deserves.
  • by PseudonymousBraveguy (1857734) on Friday July 23, 2010 @04:26AM (#33000902)
    That's not funny, that's insightful. Because you would have to fight exactly that attitude when trying to build a new nuclear reactor of any kind. And I can't see a lot of countries in europe where you could possibly win that fight (and I don't know enough about the popular opinion about nuclear energy in the US, but I'd guess it would be at least a pretty tough fight).
  • by zippthorne (748122) on Friday July 23, 2010 @06:06AM (#33001286) Journal

    60 years is ok, so long as the EROI is good. Power stations aren't something you're just going to get sick of in 60 years and want to get rid of. Also, for a prototype plant, I'd expect there to be a lot of waste of both manpower and horsepower in building the thing that would get trimmed over time if it was at all profitable to do.

  • Re:Already done? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Friday July 23, 2010 @06:47AM (#33001488) Homepage

    Someone needs to explain me how you can create 5 megawatts with only 30.000 square meters. That would make the plant produce 160 Watts/sq. meter on average.

    Theoretical maximum efficiency for any kind of solar plant (on the equator) is less than 200 Watts per square meter (to give you an idea, in southern florida it drops below 150, and this is north of florida). That would make this plant over 120% efficient (at least).

    Unless, of course, you know, they're lying and it's like 5 megawatts peak capacity at 12h noon at that optimal day in spring when the sun is directly overhead for its longest period, and only counting the total energy circulating in the plant, not what's actually coming out to the grid, which should be a bit under 2/3rd of that, or, say 3.8 megawatts. And 3, at best, during winter.

  • by irid77 (1539905) on Friday July 23, 2010 @07:30AM (#33001722)

    Yes, but Solar 2 used molten salt as an overnight storage medium only. This plant uses it as the energy collection medium, and is the first to do that.

  • by PybusJ (30549) on Friday July 23, 2010 @08:58AM (#33002432)

    Er, I ingested more than 400mg of NaCl on my lunch today.

    True, my government's recommendation is to ingest less that 6000mg per day, but it's manufacturers of processed food not renewable energy who threaten that.

    Not that these heat storage systems use Sodium Chloride, I think they actually use Nitrates (i.e. fertilizer).

  • Re:Already done? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Firethorn (177587) on Friday July 23, 2010 @11:47AM (#33004454) Homepage Journal

    A 5MW windmill can be up and running for about 1.5M euros

    Do you happen to have a source on that? I know that at the moment it's like $1.3 per , but last I heard wind turbines were running $2/watt and up.

    So I might believe 5M, but not less than a third of that.

    60M for 5MW is 12($15.60) per watt, which is kinda, sorta, acceptable for a test plant. But I'd say costs would have to come down nearly an order of magnitude for this to be truly economical.

    I'd also want to know if that 30k m^2 can actually RUN that plant at 5MW all day and night, on average. What sort of capacity factor are we looking at?

  • by CyprusBlue113 (1294000) on Friday July 23, 2010 @01:28PM (#33005752)

    Which is why the externalities of pollution need to be accounted for via regulation

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