The state-of-the-art Archimede power plant in Italy represents a paradigm shift in the development of concentrating solar power (CSP) plants.
Located in Sicily and operated by the utility ENEL (BIT:ENEL), Archimede is a 5 megawatt CSP plant that uses molten salts to capture the heat generated by the sun's energy. Archimede is the world's first concentrating solar power plant to use molten salts to capture heat. Most conventional CSP plants use pressurized oil to capture heat and molten salts to store heat so the plant can run during the night or on days where there is no sun.
However, molten salts have several advantages over pressurized oil. First, they can operate at higher temperatures (550°C instead of 390°C). This means the power output and energy efficiency of concentrating solar power plants will be increased. Using molten salts for both heat capture and storage will allow a CSP plant to run 24 hours a day for multiple days without sun.
Additionally, the non-toxic, cheap molten salts are safer for the environment than oil. Finally, using molten salts allows the steam turbines used in the CSP process to operate at the standard pressure/temperature regulations that fossil fuel plants run on -- meaning conventional power plants could easily be retrofitted to be CSP plants.
Although relatively expensive, 60 million euros, Archimede represents the future of CSP technology.
Read the full story at The Guardian: The world's first molten salt concentrating solar power plant
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