The solar tower power plant in Jülich serves as a pilot plant and reference for commercial power plants in Southern Europe and North Africa. A nearly identical power plant is currently at the detailed planning stage in Algeria. Technology developed in Germany is being utilised in regions where solar radiation is highest. Here, solar thermal power plants have the greatest potential to play a major role in the desert electricity project DESERTEC.
DLR researcher in Almeria checks the reflectance properties of a parabolic mirror. Parabolic troughs are already used in large solar thermal power plants. Researchers are now working on improving efficiency, lowering maintenance requirements and increasing the lifespan of the individual components.
DLR (CC-BY 3.0).
The DESERTEC concept is based on the use of solar energy in Earth’s sun belt regions – preferably for solar thermal power plants – to produce environment-friendly electricity for Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. According to calculations performed by DLR, the energy produced in one square kilometere of desert could supply around 100,000 households with 250 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year.
The German Aerospace Center (DLR) and Endesa test direct solar steam generation and energy storage in this pilot plant in Carboneras, located in southern Spain. In this type of solar power plant, steam is produced directly from concentrated solar radiation and used to drive a generator. The highlight of this facility is a new system that efficiently stores energy, both as sensible and latent heat. The stored energy can be used to generate electricity even at night.
The salt-based latent heat storage system works using a phase transition. At 305 degrees Celsius, the salt absorbs energy by transitioning from a solid to a liquid state. Latent heat is 'hidden' energy. Energy is accumulated as the storage medium changes phase from solid to liquid.