Concentrated solar thermal power plants (STP) with thermal energy storage are becoming reality in Spain
Concentrated solar thermal power plants (STP) with thermal energy storage are becoming reality in Spain. Spain has presently thirty STPs under construction and companies are trying to get project approval to add 4,300 MW of capacity, representing an investment of about $24.5 billion.
While renewable energy companies in the US have been playing around with inefficient and expensive PV solar panel type of subsidized solar power (SPVP) and a couple of companies have ventured into STPs, Spain has recognized that STP can be a utility plant, easily being integrated in the existing infrastructures. The advantages of STP are:
- Large power output with thermal energy storage, thus providing day and night operation
- Investment costs of ~ $5,700/kW are less than nuclear plant costs
- STPs can be built within two to three years
- technology is mature and is based on steam power cycles
- STPs can be located in sunny states like Spain, California, Arizona and Texas near power demand centers, thus utilizing existing power grids
- STPs can be integrated with existing steam power plants
Since renewable power has become fashionable and PV solar power got large government support, nobody took notice of earlier space power developments in the late fifties. For space probes solar SPVPs have been used regardless of higher cost due to higher reliability than dynamic power plans. However the Air Force developed in the late fifties a15 kW STP with lithium bromide heat storage. With high mirror accuracy a high temperature power cycle was feasible using rubidium as working fluid driving the rubidium vapor turbine alternator. The feasibility was established but forgotten by most. The industrial STP power development with steam power cycle is straightforward and should be part of the power plant inventory of our power plant manufacturing companies. No foreign content is required for US STPs.
Finally, it is noteworthy that Spanish renewable power companies like Acciona SA and Iberdola SA have cut their investments in wind power in favor of STP. This should be a lesson for the wind enthusiasts.