The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Department of Energy (DoE) are collaborating on a cutting-edge concentrated solar power (CSP) plant, with the intention of reducing energy costs to only 5 cents per kWh. The new technology is expected to reduce the cost of renewable energy while also ensuring that dispatchable energy is accessible at all times of the day. The Department of Energy has allocated $2 million to NREL to construct a prototype or model of a system that can harness the energy potentials of molten salts for this purpose. The molten salts’ corrosive characteristics must be eliminated as part of the procedure.

Concentrated solar power consists of a vast array of mirrors (also referred to as heliostats) that focus sunlight into towers designed to store the directed solar energy in the form of heat in the sand, rocks, or molten salt. This is a long-term thermal heat storage system. This implies that this stored energy may be used to meet human energy demands at any time of the day.

According to the Department of Energy, it can aid remote locations that rely on traditional solar PV during peak hours. For the first time outside of “particle-based storage” research and development, the government has granted funding, and NREL has been ordered to launch a two-year liquid molten salt-based initiative.

Working with molten salts has the advantage of ease to transfer via pipelines and heat exchangers. The molten salts provide a unique issue in that they corrode and degrade the storage tanks while delivering heat energy. However, according to the NREL, the problem has been mainly overcome by making it comparatively non-corrosive while managing the chemistry, which has previously been proved in the lab. To harness molten salts, the NREL has opted to employ chloride salts.