Combining Solar and Biomass
So...we meet again, nightfall, we meet again...! Photo Credit: barb_pt
Solar power’s Achilles Heel is nightfall. Enough solar energy strikes the Earth in one hour to power the entire globe for one year, but we can only capture a small percentage of that energy and only during the daytime. California solar firm eSolar plans to solve that problem with a new hybrid renewable power plant to be built in northern China.
The solar-thermal-slash-biomass power plant will employ a solar thermal power tower that utilizes mirrors called heliostats. These mirrors concentrate solar energy onto a central receiver tower, in which water is boiled to drive a steam turbine that creates electricity. At night during off-peak hours, a biomass incinerator will fill in the void left by sunless skies, allowing the plant to provide electricity 24/7 without the added expense and technological headache of solar energy storage components.
The solar and biomass plants will also enjoy a symbiotic relationship, in which they’ll share several plant components, including the same turbines, cutting down on construction and material costs. eSolar will license its power tower technology to Penglai Electric, the Chinese company that will oversee construction of the plants over the next decade. All told, China plans to add 2,000 megawatts of renewable power using eSolar’s technology.
The sand willow, a local shrub grown in the region to prevent desertification, will be used as fuel for the biomass-half of the plant. Relative to similar technologies, solar power towers require a small footprint of land, a significant benefit for developers of the 66-square mile Yulin Energy Park, where the plants will be located.
Source: NY Times
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