All This Renewable Energy Is Fantastic--But How Do We Store It?

Apr 8, 2016

Credit cpr.org

Yesterday we reported on a problem Texas is struggling with: The state has so much renewable energy these days that, when the flow slows it costs power companies a lot to ramp up fossil fuel energy again. This problem could be solved by renewable energy storage, the next frontier on the energy landscape.

Batteries can store power, but the cost can be prohibitive. However, Colorado Public Radio reports that now a company in Nevada may have found a solution. SolarReserve has built a large solar plant in the desert that can store heat from the sun and generate electricity for up to 10 hours, even after sundown. The key to the plant's ability to store energy is molten salt, which is contained in a system of pipes and insulated storage tanks. The salt is clear and flows like water. Heat from the sun melts the salt, which reaches temps up to 1,050 degrees.

“The whole concept here is that this facility would operate just like a natural gas, or a coal or nuclear facility — turn us on and off when they want," says SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith. "We have energy in storage so that we can generate at night."