Solar energy at night?
One of the greatest advances that solar thermal renewable energy is offering the energy market today is storage capacity for later use, so that homes and clients can have electricity even when there isn’t sun or on cloudy days.
Until not so long ago, one of the obstacles blocking development of renewable energies was that energy could only be produced when the necessary conditions were met, when there was wind, sun, etc. Nevertheless, things have changed, and now it is possible to generate solar energy even when the sun goes down!
” Thermal storage capacity allows energy production to adapt to demand and cover instances of high consumption.
This is possible thanks to thermal storage, that is, the storage of thermal energy coming from the sun. As such, this is one of the biggest technological advances in the renewable energy sector and, specifically, in solar thermal, given that it permits electricity production at the power levels required, even once night has fallen or on days with cloudy intervals. The development of this technology has meant important advantages that give Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) plants much greater flexibility. Homes also consume energy during the hours without sun, as many electrical devices are in use. Thanks to thermal storage, CSP plants can respond to these consumption peaks. This capacity to adapt production to demand is known as manageability. In addition, this characteristic also offers greater ability to respond to power shortages.
The result? Greater stability as to supply as well as a significant reduction in contaminating emissions, which benefits the integration of renewable energies in the electricity grid.
” Various lines of research exist on thermal storage to increase the efficiency of thermo-solar plants.
Currently, we can see different thermal storage systems: direct, which is utilized in the Atacama 1 project that Abengoa is developing in Chile, or indirect, as implemented in the plant in Solana (United States). In the first case, the plant in Chile, which will be the largest thermo-solar project in all of Latin America, has a storage capacity of 18 hours to generate electricity 24 hours a day, while at the same time avoiding emissions into the atmosphere of 643,000 t of CO2 per year.
In addition, they also use steam accumulators such as those used at the Solúcar Complex (Seville) in tower plants PS10 and PS20, and in Khi Solar One, a superheated steam tower plant that is being developed in South Africa.
Today, new lines of research exist for the development of storage systems with the aim of reducing costs and increasing the efficiency of plants. All of this, with the basic objective of placing energy that comes from the sun in a competitive position when compared to fossil fuel plants.