BrightSource strikes deal to use molten salt energy storage at solar thermal plants

The solar thermal power industry continues to make strides against the more popular photovoltaic technologies; with BrightSource Energy announcing a deal that will allow its three new California solar power plants to function through the night. 

BrightSource has entered into a contract with Southern California Edison (SCE) to provide 4 million-megawatt-hours of electricity, which was initially planned to be provided by four large solar power plants. Unlike the more common photovoltaic technologies, Brightsource uses large arrays of mirrors to heat water, producing steam to turn a turbine as in traditional power plants. 
 
Solar thermal power plants suffer substantially less from the issues of intermittency that are common for photovoltaics, but are still limited by the setting of the sun. In this latest deal BrightSource plans to install what amount to thermal batteries, molten salt that will retain heat and allow the plants to produce power well into the night. The use of molten salt technology will also allow the company to forgo one entire 200-megawatt solar power plant in fulfilling its power purchase agreement with SCE. 

“With these agreements, we’re demonstrating that power tower technology is not only advancing the solar thermal industry, but that utility-scale solar generation can be both cost effective and reliable,” said John Woolard, President and CEO of BrightSource Energy. “We’re thrilled to offer Southern California Edison a solution that provides higher value for its customers, while supporting a more reliable and stable grid for all Californians.”



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