Oakland, Calif., August 3, 2011 — BrightSource Energy, Inc., a solar thermal technology company, launched a new solar thermal power plant solution for utilities.
Called SolarPLUS, the offering combines BrightSource's high-efficiency LPT power tower solar thermal technology with two-tank molten salt storage.
Solar power industry analysts have recognized solar thermal storage and efficiency gains as two critical components of driving down the cost of solar electricity, while also realizing the significant reliability benefits that solar thermal power provides utilities and grid operators.
SolarPLUS now brings these two critical components together by combining BrightSource's LPT solar thermal power generating technology with molten salt storage.
Adding energy storage to a solar thermal power plant reduces the cost of energy produced at a plant by increasing its capacity factor — how much power a plant produces — by extending the production of electricity into later parts of the day when it is most needed by utilities.
A traditional BrightSource's LPT power tower solar thermal system uses a field of software-controlled mirrors called heliostats to reflect the sun's energy to a boiler atop a tower to produce high temperature and high pressure steam. The steam is used to turn a conventional steam turbine to produce electricity.
In a BrightSource SolarPLUS plant, the steam is directed to a heat exchanger, where molten salts are further heated to a higher temperature, thus efficiently storing the heat energy for future use. Later, when the energy in storage is needed, the heat stored in the molten salts is used to generate steam to run the steam turbine.