Sicily has just announced the opening of the world’s first concentrated solar power (CSP) facility that uses molten salt as a heat collection medium. Since molten salt is able to reach very high temperatures (over 1000 degrees Fahrenheit) and can hold more heat than the synthetic oil used in other CSP plants, the plant is able to continue to produce electricity even after the sun has gone down.
While photovoltaic solar panels work by directly producing electricity from sunlight, CSP plants use mirrors to concentrate sunlight and produce high temperatures in order to drive a turbine to generate electricity. CSP plants have been in existence for many years, but the Archimede plant is the first instance of a facility that uses molten salt as the collection medium.
The Archimede plant has a capacity of 5 megawatts with a field of 30,000 square meters of mirrors and more than 3 miles of heat collecting piping for the molten salt. The cost for this initial plant was around 60 milion Euros.
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