Solar Power Tower

The solar power tower, also known as 'central tower' power plants or 'heliostat' power plants or power towers, is a type of solar furnace using a tower to receive the focused sunlight. It uses an array of flat, movable mirrors (called heliostats) to focus the sun's rays upon a collector tower (the target). Concentrated solar thermal is seen as one viable solution for renewable, pollution-free energy.

Solar Power TowerEarly designs used these focused rays to heat water, and used the resulting steam to power a turbine. Newer designs using liquid sodium have been demonstrated, and systems using molten salts (40% potassium nitrate, 60% sodium nitrate) as the working fluids are now in operation. These working fluids have high heat capacity, which can be used to store the energy before using it to boil water to drive turbines. These designs also allow power to be generated when the sun is not shining.

The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has estimated that by 2020 electricity could be produced from power towers for 5.47 cents per kWh.. Companies such as ESolar (backed by are continuing development of cheap, low maintenance, mass producible heliostat components that will reduce costs in the near future. ESolar's design uses large numbers of small mirrors (1.14 m²), which reduce costs for installing mounting systems such as concrete, steel, drilling, and cranes.

Improvements in working fluid systems, such as moving from current two tank (hot/cold) designs to single tank thermocline systems with quartzite thermal fillers and oxygen blankets will improve material efficiency and reduce costs further. More details