World’s first: Spain solar plant produces electricity at night

The new Gemasolar heliostatic plant is reportedly the world’s first solar plant to have the capacity  to generate electricity at night.

Located outside of Seville, Spain, the newly opened  US$410m Gemasolar plant contains a vat of molten salt that supposedly keeps the facility running for approximately 15 hours when it is dark, according to an online report by Gizmodo.

The plant has more than 2600 concentrically arranged mirrors which concentrate solar energy towards a centrally located molten nitrate salt tank.  As the rays converge, they super-heat the salt to over 900°C which boils the water around the tank to drive steam turbines, the report reads.

Gizmodo states that superfluous heat generated during the day is stored within the liquefied salt. The salt act like a giant thermal battery for driving the turbines at night and during overcast days and can last up to 15 hours at a time with no sunlight.

The Seville plant is said to have an annual production total of approximately 110 GWh per year; Gizmodo reports that this is enough to power 25,000 homes and reduce atmospheric CO2 emissions by more than 30,000 tons a year.

The plant is currently operating below its reported potential output capacity of 20 megawatts, however it is expected that the plant could reach 70% capacity by 2012.

The Gemasolar plant can operate for at least 6500 hours a year, up to three times longer than other renewable.

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