Two years ago in December 2018, China put into operation its first 100MW solar power plant in Dunhuang City, Gansu province. The solar power plant has a heat-absorbing tower rising 260m above the ground.
The molten salt tower-type solar power plant covers a field of 7.8 square kilometers. Using 12,000 large-size reflection mirrors, the power plant is capable of generating power all day long, providing 390 million kWh of electricity per year.
How does China’s solar power plant work?
The 12,000 large-size reflection mirrors are always in a position to reflect the sunlight directly to the top of the tower in the middle. At the top, the tower stores the molten salt to receive the heat.
China's first 100MW #solar power plant uses 12,000 mirrors and is capable of producing energy throughout the day and night.
— Mike Hudema (@MikeHudema) February 2, 2020
Molten salt has 60% sodium nitrate and 40% potassium-nitrate and is one of the most efficient materials to transfer and store heat. Solar power plants make use of this since it is non-flammable and non-toxic. This material is also liquid at atmospheric pressure and easily manageable temperatures of 550°F. With sunlight, it can heat to over 1000°F which is comparable to today’s steam turbines. Lastly, the system transports the heated molten salt to insulated tanks which can contain the energy for days.
According to the expert of the National Energy Administration Zen Shaojun, developing this is important being a new power supply. He said that “it is a stable power supply with peak regulation and voltage regulation within the existing new energy sources, and a replacement for thermal power.”
Solar power plants are a source of new and green energy that has a vast potential to create sustainable, steady electricity output. Currently, China is the first country with the highest installed photovoltaic capacity (204GW). This is still not enough because it only represents 17% of the country’s energy production. Despite all this, it doesn’t make the feat of a sole solar power plant producing 100MW any less impressive.
YouTube: China’s First 100MW Solar Power Plant Put Into Operation