World's largest concentrated solar power tower completed

US renewable energy developer SolarReserve has this week completed construction of a 540ft (165m) molten salt tower in the Nevada desert thought to be the world’s largest.

The tower will form the centrepiece of the 110MW Crescent Dunes concentrated solar power plant, although more than 10,000 tracking mirrors still need to be installed before it opens at the end of 2013.

The mirrors will focus sunlight onto the tower, which will heat up molten salt that then flows down the piping inside the tower and into a thermal storage tank. The heat can then used to make steam to generate electricity or stored for up to 15 hours, allowing the solar power plant to produce energy even at night.

SolarReserve claims Crescent Dunes will be the nation’s first commercial-scale solar power facility with fully integrated energy storage and the largest power plant of its kind in the world.

“Completion of the solar power tower is a significant milestone not only for SolarReserve and our plant, but also for the solar energy industry as a whole,” said Kevin Smith, company chief executive, in a statement.

“We can deliver electricity on demand the same way a coal, natural gas or nuclear fuelled plant does – but without emitting any harmful pollution or hazardous materials – providing a genuine alternative to conventional power generation.”

The project near the town of Tonopah was partially funded by a $737m government loan guarantee. It has secured a 25-year power purchase agreement with NV Energy and will provide clean electricity to about 75,000 homes when complete.

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