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Salt is one of the most abundant materials on the earth. Did you know it can be used to produce energy?

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Sensible heat of molten salt is also used for storing solar energy at a high temperature. It is termed molten-salt technology or molten-salt energy storage (MSES). Molten salts can be employed as a thermal energy storage method to retain thermal energy. Presently, this is a commercially used technology to store the heat collected by concentrated solar power (e.g., from a solar tower or solar trough). The heat can later be converted into superheated steam to power conventional steam turbines and generate electricity in bad weather or at night. It was demonstrated in the Solar Two project from 1995-1999. Estimates in 2006 predicted an annual efficiency of 99%, a reference to the energy retained by storing heat before turning it into electricity, versus converting heat directly into electricity. Various eutectic mixtures of different salts are used (e.g., sodium nitrate, potassium nitrate and calcium nitrate). Experience with such systems exists in non-solar applications in the chemical and metals industries as a heat-transport fluid.

The salt melts at 131 °C (268 °F). It is kept liquid at 288 °C (550 °F) in an insulated "cold" storage tank. The liquid salt is pumped through panels in a solar collector where the focused sun heats it to 566 °C (1,051 °F). It is then sent to a hot storage tank. With proper insulation of the tank the thermal energy can be usefully stored for up to a week. When electricity is needed, the hot molten salt is pumped to a conventional steam-generator to produce superheated steam for driving a conventional turbine/generator set as used in any coal or oil or nuclear power plant. A 100-megawatt turbine would need a tank of about 9.1 metres (30 ft) tall and 24 metres (79 ft) in diameter to drive it for four hours by this design.

Single tank with divider plate to hold both cold and hot molten salt, is under development. It is more economical by achieving 100% more heat storage per unit volume over the dual tanks system as the molten-salt storage tank is costly due to its complicated construction. Phase Change Material (PCMs) are also used in molten-salt energy storage.

Several parabolic trough power plants in Spain and solar power tower developer SolarReserve use this thermal energy storage concept. The Solana Generating Station in the U.S. can store 6 hours worth of generating capacity in molten salt. During the summer of 2013 the Gemasolar Thermosolar solar power-tower/molten-salt plant in Spain achieved a first by continuously producing electricity 24 hours per day for 36 days

Osmotic power, salinity gradient power or blue energy is the energy available from the difference in the salt concentration between seawater and river water. Two practical methods for this are reverse electrodialysis (RED) and pressure retarded osmosis (PRO). Both processes rely on osmosis with membranes.

There are a number of methods for producing energy from salt:


CSP technologies use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto receivers that collect solar energy and convert it to heat. Thermal energy can then be used to produce electricity via a turbine or heat engine driving a generator. Because CSP technologies collect solar energy and convert it to thermal energy that can be stored before powering a generator, they can be used either as a flexible provider of electricity, such as a natural gas “peaker” plant, or as a baseload source of electricity similar to a traditional nuclear or coal plant. CSP can also be deployed as fossil-fuel backup/hybridization that allows existing fossil fuel projects to run cleaner while operating at the same or lower cost. In the United States alone, between 11 and 21 gigawatts of CSP could be built and integrated into existing fossil fuel plants in the United States to reduce their carbon emissions – that’s enough electricity to power to between 3 million and 6 million homes.

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