A massive solar farm near Tonopah, NV generates and stores 110 megawatts of electricity, enough to power more than 75,000 homes at peak electrical demand. The Crescent Dunes project, which was constructed by California-based SolarReserve, opened for business earlier this year. Its massive 10,000-panel glass solar array sits on 1,500 acres.
Highly polished glass collects sunlight
The Crescent Dunes Project uses finely tuned, highly polished glass heliostats to concentrate the intense desert sun onto a central collector. The collector, a 640-foot tower, contains molten salt that ranges between 550° F and nearly 1,100° F. The molten salt can both transfer and store the heat energy. To generate electricity, the molten salt travels through a heat exchanger that creates super-heated steam, and powers a conventional steam turbine engine. The project can generate electricity 24 hours a day, without interruption.
The glass arrays precisely track the sun throughout the day, and focus the collected energy to avoid waste and inefficiency. The goal of the project is practical, zero-emission electrical production. The designers say that the plant can produce solar electricity for more than 30 years with little to no loss in efficiency and little negative impact on the environment.
The salt mixture, which is used in a closed-loop system combines sodium nitrate and potassium nitrate. It contains no harmful or toxic components, and could be converted into fertilizer after the plant is decommissioned. The company does not expect to add any salt to the facility during the plant’s lifetime, because the salt mixture does not degrade or leak or evaporate during energy collection, storage or conversion.
SolarReserve says the cost for a Crescent Dunes style collector is comparable to that of a new traditional coal-fired, natural gas or nuclear electric plant. The solar array offers the benefit of zero greenhouse gas emissions and a low environmental impact.
Glassprimer™ glass paint won’t help you generate solar electricity, but it can provide superior UV protection in both commercial and residential construction. UV control is an important element of reducing solar heat gain in interior spaces. It’s also cost-effective and environmentally friendly.
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Photo Credit: Doc Searls, via Flickr.com