Solar Power Towers

  1. How it works
  2. Heat storage and transfer
  3. Scheme
  4. Technical, Facts and Tests
  5. Location

How it works

Solar power towers consist of a large field of sun-tracking mirrors, called heliostats, which focus solar energy on a receiver atop a centrally located tower. The enormous amount of energy, coming out of the sun rays, concentrated at one point (the tower in the middle), produces temperatures of approx. 550C to 1500C. The gained thermal energy can be used for heating water or molten salt, which saves the energy for later use.
Heatened water gets to steam, which is used to move the turbine-generator. This way thermal energy is converted into electricity.

Heat storage and transfer

As already mentioned there are two main fluids which are used for the heat transfer, water and molten salt. Water for example is the oldest and simplest way for heat transfer. But the difference is that the method in which molten salt is used, allows to store the heat for the terms when the sun is behind clouds or even at night. Molten salt - better: the heat of it - can be used until the next dawn when the sun will be back to heat the cooled down salt again.

The molten salt consists of 60% sodium nitrate an 40% potassium nitrate (salpeter). The salt melts at about 700C and is liquid at approx. 1000C, it will be kept in an insulated storage tank until the time, when it will be needed for heating up the water in the steam generator.
This way of energy storage has an efficiency of approx. 99%, i.e. due to the imperfect insulation 1% of the stored energy gets lost .


Technical, Facts and Tests

E.g.: The Power Tower Project "Solar II" (California):


Until now, there are only few solar power towers because they're rentable only in regions with a high amount of sunshine and the costs are at a fairly high level.

Back Up

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Mustafa Mesanovic <>
Nils Philippsen <>

Fri Dec 20 10:44:48 MET 1996