Outlook Bright for Molten Salt Thermal Energy Storage as Concentrated Solar Power Grows

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Construction of concentrated solar power (CSP) plants will drive global demand for molten salt thermal energy storage (TES) sales in 2010, driven by demand associated with construction and project planning of CSP plants, upon which they are completely dependent, according to SBI.

NaS batteries have been the largest HTS market since they were introduced in 2003, SBI notes. Utilities such as RUBENIUS in Mexico and the Abu Dhabi Water and Electric Authority are building NaS battery energy storage systems in the hundreds of megawatts, but lack of basic R&D investment will result in increasing use of lithium-ion batteries by utilities at the expense of NaS energy storage systems, SBI forecasts.

A marked increase in CSP plants, meanwhile, will drive demand for molten salt thermal energy storage systems. “Fortunately for this category, the legislation and regulation landscape for both renewable energy sources and grid energy storage is very favorable,” according to SBI.

SBI forecasts that the US will surpass Spain as the largest market for TES systems by 2013. By 2015, more MWh (megawatt-hours) of energy of TES will be installed in the US than in Spain. Helped by a feed-in tariff, Spain has become the world leader in CSP with more than 580 MWac (alternating current) in operation.

With 41 CSP projects in the pipeline as of year-end 2010, the US looks poised to overtake Spain, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Three CSP plants totaling 77.5 MWac came online in the US in 2010: the 1.5 MWac Tessera/Stirling Maricopa Dish-Engine project in Arizona, the 1 MWac Abengoa Solar Cameo Hybrid plant in Colorado, and Florida Power & Light’s 75 MWac Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center. The Dept. of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management approved eight major solar projects last year, six of which were CSP projects, according to SEIA.

CSP projects in both Spain and the US will continue to drive growth in molten salt TES out to 2020, while other countries, such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia, will also begin to contribute significantly, SBI says.


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