Areva switches on storage pilot

Areva has switched on an innovative molten salt energy-storage demonstration plant at Sandia National Laboratories’ R&D centre in New Mexico.

The pilot, partly funded by the US Department of Energy (DOE), uses the French industrialist’s Compact Linear Fresnel Reflector (CLFR) technology married to a molten salt test loop to reduce the cost of concentrating solar power (CSP) projects.

The trial is designed to demonstrate that the use of molten salt as a working fluid for CSP plants rather than just for storage. By cutting the volume of salt needed for storage, and removing the need for two sets of heat-exchangers in the system, Areva expects to sharpen the efficiencies of the technology.

“This innovative storage solution combines our proven and economical CLFR technology with the demonstrated use of molten salt as a heat transfer and storage fluid,” says Areva Solar chief executive Sam Shakir.

“Together, these technologies provide a solution to capture the sun’s energy during the day and economically deliver renewable power to the grid at any time.”

The company’s CLFR design is built around an array of mirrors that focus incoming sunlight on an elevated evacuated tube receiver to heat molten salt circulated from a “cold” (290°C) tank to as high as 550°C for storage. When needed, the high-temperature molten salt passes through a heat exchanger to produce steam for electricity generation, with the molten salt flowing back to the cold tank.

Sandia CSP technology manager Subhash Shinde adds: “This is an enabling technology that provides a possible path to realising the DOE-driven SunShot programme goal to reduce the total installed cost of solar energy systems to $0.06/kWh by 2020.”