Halotechnics is one of the companies who want to use improved materials that could make solar thermal power cheaper and energy storage easier than now. Solar thermal plants generate electricity using a large field of mirorrs to concentrate sunlight and to produce high temperatures that then generate steam for a turbine and drive a generator. One fact is most important, solar thermal plants are more expensive than ones based on solar panels but is far cheaper to store heat produced by mirrors than to store electricity from solar panels.
Halotechnics discovered new salt and glass materials sorting nearly 18,000 mixtures. These materials store up to three times more energy than heat storage materials used now. Better energy storage will reduce the cost per kilowatt-hour of the electricity produced by solar thermal plants because they are working day an night. The materials could help lower the cost for solar thermal electricity to six cents per kilowatt-hour as the goal of the US Department of Energy.
Talking about solar thermal plants the old system “…that are commercial today are limited to about 565 °C—that’s the molten salt tower plants,” says Mehos. “The tower and optics themselves can hit higher temperatures, but you’re limited by the salt temperature right now.” The new materials can work at temperatures up to 1,200 °C and the energy storage will be visible improved.