The world’s first power plant capable of generating solar energy 24 hours a day without interruption has opened near Seville in southern Spain.   The International Herald Tribune has the story and euronews has a video.

It is the largest concentrated solar power facility of its type in Europe and is a joint venture between Spain and the United Arab Emirates. It is designed to produce nearly 20 MW of electricity, enough to supply a city of 100,000 people.

What makes the plant unique is its use of salt instead of oil, which enables it to store power for up to 15 hours or long enough to keep on providing power through the night when the Sun does not shine.

Torresol Energy’s Gemasolar concentrated solar power plant is the world’s first commercial plant to use molten salt, rather than oil, to transfer heat generated from concentrated sunlight. The use of salt allows the plant to operate at temperatures of more than 550 degrees Celsius (1,022 Fahrenheit).

This allows Gemasolar to operate at higher temperatures than plants that use traditional parabolic trough technology. This in turn generates hotter pressurized steam to drive the turbine, increasing the plant’s efficiency.

Storing the hot salt also allows electricity generation to continue for as long as 15 hours, even when there is no sunshine — a significant advance in solar generating capability.

The Gemasolar plant is considered a showcase for demonstrating thermal storage and improved thermoelectric efficiency, with receivers operating at very high temperatures.

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