Solar power plant design uses affordable, accessible resources to spread clean energy around the globe

Feb. 17, 2020
Research team at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute designs plant to be simple to construct using local materials and to avoid using molten salt

In an effort to bring clean, renewable energy to remote locations around the globe, Partha Dutta, professor of electrical, computer and systems engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, designed a solar power plant that is simple to construct and operate with local materials, and doesn’t use molten salt for heat storage. Going further, he recently built a kilowatt-scale prototype plant in India to demonstrate proof of concept.

Like most solar power plant designs, Dutta’s generates heat by capturing sunlight that is used to convert water into steam to power a turbine or stored for later use. However, he and his team found an alternative to molten salt for heat storage.

To do this, Dutta and his team studied various materials, focusing on how well each stored heat. He then took that information into the field to find materials local to Bhopal, the location of the prototype plant in India, to find one that matched the ideal thermal properties found in the lab.

The team used earth-abundant thermal rocks, which were placed inside a tank for heat storage to ensure energy can be produced any time of day.

Expanding on this research, Dutta plans to demonstrate a megawatt-scale plant within the next year to show the potential to his approach to producing solar energy. He is also looking to create high-temperature, supercritical steam through the process to increase efficiency of electricity generation by a steam turbine.

Read the full press release here.

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