A solar power tower is a large-scale solar setup that converts sunlight into electricity for people to use. Here, heliostats are mirrors placed strategically to track the sun’s movement and focus its rays onto a receiver at the top of a tower. This leads to the heating up of the fluid in the receiver which is used to generate steam. A conventional turbine generator is powered by this steam to generate electricity.
A solar power tower is basically a part of the solar power plant standing in the center of the system. Solar tower power plants are ideal for commercial applications due to their large-scale setups. One of the largest solar power plants can generate 650 GWh of energy annually. Besides commercial uses, there have been many attempts to apply them in innovative ways too.
Working of Solar Power Tower
The tower is placed centrally and surrounded by a large array of mirrors which are either flat or curved. But mostly flat mirrors are used as they are cost-effective. Newer designs utilize molten salts due to their enhanced heat transfer and energy storage capabilities. In this mechanism, heat is transferred to water, causing it to turn into steam. The steam is subsequently transported to a conventional turbine in order to generate electricity.
In old towers, mirrors track the sun and catch the incident sunlight to reflect it back to the tower. A large amount of solar radiation is focused on a small spot on the tower to heat up the fluid to generate steam and electricity.
Also See: Can Mirrors Boost Solar Panel Output?
Benefits of Solar Power Tower
The solar power plant with solar towers has the following benefits.
- Not using fossil fuel is their primary benefit as the entire process is dependent on solar energy.
- Solar power towers do not rely completely on sunlight to generate electricity. They use molten salts for energy storage that are able to work 24 by 7.
- They are a reliable energy source as their work is not interrupted by weather.
- The system is emission-free.
Drawbacks of Solar Power Tower
The following are the drawbacks of this tower:
- Solar towers require a steady water supply to create steam, which is then used to spin a turbine and generate electricity.
- The high temperature of up to 550 °C around the solar tower can harm wildlife.
- During manufacturing, the solar tower’s components, including heliostats, can generate harmful byproducts.
- These facilities need a significant initial investment because of their large size.
- The field of mirrors and towers, which can be over 100 meters tall, can be seen as unattractive and affect the local landscape.
Solar towers are a relatively new technology and a worthy investment for the future. Researchers and manufacturers are always trying to make them better and overcome their limitations.