Coffee beans

Driving solar thermal power’s economic viability

Oslo, November 12, 2012
Yara research has identified a new grade of potassium calcium nitrate that can reduce costs and improve performance in concentrated solar power (CSP) plants. Following positive laboratory testing, this new project is ready to change heat storage in the global solar market.
Solar Power Molten Salt

“This new product pushes down solar power costs, which improves the profitability of utility-scale concentrated solar power plants for investors and operators,” says Yves Bonte, Head of Industrial at Yara. “We create value not just for our customers, but also allow the renewable energy sector to take a new leap forward.”

Concentrated Solar Power (also known as CSP or solar thermal power) uses mirrors or lenses to concentrate a large area of sunlight onto a small area. This concentrated light heats water, thermal oil, or molten salts which drive a steam turbine connected to an electrical power generator. Molten salts are injected into the system's piping, storage tanks and hydraulic systems. The new Yara approach would add potassium calcium nitrate as a third (ternary) salt to the usual binary mix of sodium nitrate and potassium nitrate.

Solar thermal energy using molten salt as heat transfer fluid and storage technology is an alternative to photovoltaic (PV) solar power, which uses solar panels to convert sunlight into direct current electricity. Since CSP separates collection of solar energy and power production, electricity can be stored and generated as needed, meaning it is available at night or in inclement weather. This is the major advantage of solar thermal over other renewable energy sources, and allows utility-scale CSP plants to be baseload: to provide clean power to the grid in sufficient amounts around the clock. 

“Solar power is a new sector for Yara, but fits in well with our environmental solutions in air and water treatment. This Yara innovation supports the renewable sector’s economic viability, creating impact in a strategic new sector,” adds Yves.

A new generation of molten salts

Based on research conducted at the Yara Porsgrunn Technology Center, this new potassium calcium nitrate heralds a new generation of molten salts used in solar thermal power.

"The addition of this new molecule expands the molten salt's effective temperature range by reducing its melting point from 220°C to 131°C, making it more versatile.” says Yara Iberian Business Manager Emilio Iglesias. “It helps reduce costs significantly for CSP plants, Yara can ensure supply reliability with its worldwide production, and the product is much less corrosive, meaning longer lifetime for components in contact with the molten salt," Emilio adds.

The product is ready, and the first key markets are Spain and the USA. Yara’s global production platform and logistics network mean that it can roll this important innovation out across the world, very quickly.

On November 13th, Emilio will make the first public presentation of this new solution at CSP TODAY SEVILLA 2012, the 6th International Concentrated Solar Thermal Power Summit. Read more about Emilio’s presentation at the conference here.

For more information, please contact Emilio Iglesias Sola here.

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