Want a 24-hour clean power source? Solar might be your answer.
Now, researchers at Montclair State University in New Jersey are studying the potential of using the molten salt crust as a renewable energy source for clean, always-on energy.
“In the future we hope to be able to build one of the largest power plants in the world,” Peter Vander Lawfey, a third-year marine and marine sciences major, said.
“There are potential substations in the future where we can add less power as we take it down and convert it to the cleaner, stationary stuff,” he added.
Researchers have developed a laser that can give distant power plants the ability to see the liquid melt during peak periods of solar radiation, which has been demonstrated at a concentration of 1,500 meters above sea level, and can even detect energy levels at normal levels.
The molten salt-based method would allow power plants and other facilities that would usually need electricity to be completely dedicated to storage. Since none of the power has to be stored, it could be used as backup power during the worst storms.
The team hopes to move forward with a pilot demonstration run in New Jersey in the summer, but, like most researchers, is worried about how the method may affect the distribution of power plants.
“We have to make sure that we make sure that we don’t do something that harms distribution services like hydro and nuclear that we currently have,” Vander Lawfey said.
Besides the problem of connecting power plants to distribution systems during the times of high-radiation, solar power needs to balance out its potentially significant greenhouse gas footprint. In order to do so, the method needs to eliminate fossil fuel-based energy by converting liquid energy into carbon dioxide.
That means removing five times the fossil fuel requirement of the current generation of energy.
The team also needs to balance whether the option of renewable energy should be available in the first place.
On the proposal, developers would receive two feed-in-tariffs on the load from a suitable location. The plants would also have to be several thousand feet below sea level, which is where most bulk natural gas can get sent.
“The nuclear needs to be located between these emissions. That’s what we try to keep,” Vander Lawfey said.