History

Although power towers are commercially less mature than parabolic trough systems, a number of component an d experimental systems have been field tested around the world in the last 15 years, demonstrating the engineerin g feasibility and economic potential of the technology. Since the early 1980s, power towers have been fielded in Russia,

Italy, Spain, Japan, France, and the United States [2]. In Table 1, these experiments are listed along with some of their more important characteristics. These experimental facilities were built to prove that solar power towers can produc e electricity and to prove and improve on the individual system components. Solar Two, which is currently goin g through its startup phase, will generate (in addition to electric power) information on the design, performance, operation and maintenance of molten-salt power towers. The objective of Solar Two is to mitigate the perceived technologica l and financial risks associated with the first commercial plants and to prove the molten-salt thermal storage technology.

Table 1. Experimental power towers.

Project

(MWe)

Heat Transfer Fluid

Storage Medium

Operation Began

SSPS

Spain

0.5

Liquid Sodium

Sodium

1981

EURELIOS

Italy

1

Steam

Nitrate Salt/Water

1981

SUNSHINE

Japan

1

Steam

Nitrate Salt/Water

1981

Solar One

USA

10

Steam

Oil/Rock

1982

CESA-1

Spain

1

Steam

Nitrate Salt

1983

MSEE/Cat B

USA

1

Molten Nitrate

Nitrate Salt

1984

THEMIS

France

2.5

Hi-Tec Salt

Hi-Tec Salt

1984

SPP-5

Russia

5

Steam

Water/ Steam

1986

TSA

Spain

1

Air

Ceramic

1993

Solar Two

USA

10

Molten Nitrate Salt

Nitrate Salt

1996

In early power towers, the thermal energy collected at the receiver was used to generate steam directly to drive a turbine generator. Although these systems were simple, they had a number of disadvantages that will be described in th e discussions that follow.

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