ESolar’s Modular Solar Power Towers with Storage

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ESolar’s CEO puts it directly: “Our objective is to compete straight up with the best-in-class PVs.”


“What is so unique about our technology is the modular nature of it and the scalability,” explained eSolar President/CEO John Van Scoter. “Instead of one-size-fits-all,” he said, “we can literally build these up just like building blocks and adapt to different customer requirements.”

Besides the company’s streamlined and clear sculptural look, at a quick glance, it seems it has attracted some big business partners. It has partnered up with General Electric (GE) and Babcock & Wilcox, two major energy sector multinationals. And it has a roadmap for scaling its cost down and reaching outward.

Besides competing “straight-up with the best-in-class PVs on an ongoing basis,”  it also has “the advantage of being dispatchable with storage.”

And its affect on water consumption is notable. “The company has also streamlined the system’s power electronics, cabling installation and robotic heliostat cleaning. The first two will reduce costs and the third, Van Scoter said, “will reduce water consumption by an order of magnitude.”

It seems that this is a company is one to keep an eye on. What do you think? A potential game-changer? Potential, but not sure yet?

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Cynthia Shahan, started writing after previously doing research and publishing work on natural birth practices. Words can be used improperly depending on the culture you are in. (Several unrelated publications) She has a degree in Education, Anthropology, Creative Writing, and was tutored in Art as a young child thanks to her father the Doctor.

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11 thoughts on “ESolar’s Modular Solar Power Towers with Storage

  • I think there are tough times ahead for solar thermal. PV has many advantages (low maintenance, no water use, no moving parts, works in diffuse light, rooftop installation) and the prices are still declining.

    The one thing that gave solar thermal an edge over PV was cheap storage. But that advantage is now in doubt, given the recent strides of the liquid metal battery, as described in an article here a short while ago.

    • I totally agree, Anne. Not long back I thought thermal solar had a future because it could serve the peak demand hours after the Sun sinks. But cheap batteries would kill that market for thermal.

      Batteries are multi-use. They can not only carry cheap PV power into the evening they can, a few hours later, carry cheap nighttime wind into pre-PV hours thus earning income twice per 24 day cycle.

      Throw in the siting and transmission advantages of large scale batteries and I think thermal is in a world of hurt. If liquid metal batteries or another cheap to manufacturer battery becomes reality.

    • It’s not clear to me that any of the statements made in any of these replies is true.
      The best in class PV is NOT low maintenance because it HAS moving parts. PV works best at normal incidence, so the best PV moves to maintain that normal incidence.
      Nothing precludes the use of solar thermal, especially if it is modular, on roof tops.
      No water use makes NO SENSE. The poster above claims cleaning the panels/heliostats ONLY results in a 1% increase in production. To reach commercial scale a solar plant would need to be 1-10 GW. Combine those 2 points and what you get is throwing away 100 Megawatts capacity because you’re against light dusting.
      How can you be FOR conservation and yet willing to throw away, say 1 gigawatt-hour per day. And that at the equivalent of 1 solar plant. Multiply that by the many solar plants that would be required to make significant in-roads against the conventional commercial electric utilities.
      WRT using thermal storage. Why on earth would they convert electricity to thermal for storage? They would just use that electricity. Unless you are proposing a build out of wind turbines such that they routinely exceed the night time power requirements of the entire grid? Molten salt systems are supposed to be 99% efficient. Of course then converting that heat to electricity is only about 40% efficient. But if you are willing to accept a 40% conversion rate when the sun is shining I don’t see why it would be unacceptable at night.
      I’m not trying to convince anyone that this system is the next big thing, just dispel the notion that the above replies are high-lighting any of the reasons why it may fail.

      • Since only direct sunlight can be focused, a solar thermal power powerplant does not work in cloudy conditions. So that limits solar thermal power plants to regions with large amounts of sunny weather. Mostly arid regions where water is a scarce resource that must not be used lightly. You act as if water is free and abundant, but it is not. Sometimes losing 1% of your yield is worth it if it saves you water.

        I’m not really sure why you are so exited about this. This is an economic consideration for the plant operator, a simple matter of cost vs benefit. Instead of spending money on cleaning, you can install more panels or higher efficiency panels and end up getting more energy for the same amount of money.

        What you don’t realise is that water in a solar thermal plant is not just for cleaning the heliostats but also for cooling. Just like all thermal plants (nuclear and fossil fuel plants included), a solar thermal plant needs cooling of some sort. See here:

        Looking at actual PV installations, you’ll see that they have no moving parts (apart from some cooling fans perhaps). 99% of PV installations are fixed, not mounted on trackers. That greatly reduces cost and is the cheapest in regions with more clouds and less direct sunlight.

        “The poster above claims cleaning the panels/heliostats ONLY results in a 1% increase in production”

        No, the poster above only claimed this for PV, not solar thermal. You misread his comment.

        “How can you be FOR conservation and yet willing to throw away, say 1 gigawatt-hour per day”

        Conservation of water is also an important issue. Try to see the whole picture.

        “WRT using thermal storage. Why on earth would they convert electricity to thermal for storage? ”

        Heat storage in a solar thermal power plant doesn’t work that way. The heat is stored as it comes from the heliostats, BEFORE it is used to generate electricity:

        • Nope, water cooling not inherent to CSP thermal.

          85% of commercial installations use tracking.

          Poster above only said “panels”, he did not specify PV or otherwise, but he PROBABLY did mean PV. The effects would be greater for heliostats making it less likely cleaning would not be economic.
          Water for cooling, assuming you used it, need not be potable water. You could use seawater or water from a saline underground aquifer. Conceiveably you could even desalinate that water with the ‘waste heat’, so that CSP thermal could provide both electricity and be a net producer of potable water.
          I didn’t suggest using heat storage that way, the OP did. I was just asking why he thought that was a good idea.

          • That Wiki page is wrong, I think.

            I’m not aware of any large solar arrays that use tracking. The very large installation now being completed in Antelope Valley is not tracked.

            I’ve never seen tracking on flat roof commercial installations. In fact, there are a lot of flat mounts, not even tilted toward the Sun.

            I think, am not sure, that the thermal solar plant at Ivanhoe is using reclaimed municipal water for heliostat cleaning.

          • Yep. That one is using tracking. I wonder if things have changed with the drop in panel prices, *Alamosa* went on line when panels were expensive.

    • i’d agree. not counting it out yet. but it’s got quite a hill to climb to compete with PV. and the hill seems to be perpetually growing.

  • Good luck to them, but as has been mentioned, they will have a hard time competeing with PV. Thermal storage is capable of storing energy from wind and other sources by converting electricity into heat. But this is only about 30% efficient while flow batteries might about around 75% efficient. Of course, if the cost of the stored electricity is zero cents per kilowatt-hour low efficiency isn’t a big problem. As PV is likely to push the price of electricity down to zero in the middle of the day, Solar thermal might end up supplying electricity during the small breakfast time morning peak, be charged during the middle of the day and then supply electricity for the large evening peak, and then be inefficiently charged by wind power very late at night.

    I will mention that if built in Australia we would probably forgo cleaning the heliostats as it probably wouldn’t be worth it. We wouldn’t build them in actual deserts and so would probably just let the rain wash them clean.

    • Turns out that it is not very necessary to wash solar panels anywhere.
      A test array of panels was set up outside Tuscon, AZ and not cleaned for two years.

      When they were cleaned after two years performance was only about 1% better.
      Heavy dust storms, birds in the blackberry patch – those could be exceptions.

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