Innovative Energy-Storing Solar Power Plant Debuts in Arizona

Energy storage is acknowledged by many as a missing link of renewable energy, particularly by those quick to cite the intermittency of solar and wind power. A new solar thermal plant in Arizona stores energy in the form of heat for peak hour needs.

2 minute read

October 22, 2013, 10:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


Matthew L. Wald writes about "a closely watched new solar project called Solana" in the Arizona desert built by Abengoa Solar. Unlike conventional solar plants that produce electricity for transmission to energy-hungry, metropolitan markets, Solana is also a cutting-edge, energy storage facility relying on "huge tanks of molten salt" to store heat from its "sprawling network of parabolic mirrors...in a three-square-mile patch of desert". It will sell its renewable energy, including the electricity it produces at night, to the utility, Arizona Public Service.

When the sun has set, the plant can draw heat back out of the molten salt to continue making steam and electricity...The emerging technology is one way that the utility industry is trying to make electricity from the sun available even when it is not shining, overcoming one of the major shortcomings of solar power.

If you thought that energy storage was solely the province of batteries, think again. Wald writes that "several (renewable power) plants have added banks of electric batteries. But battery storage is so expensive that these have been used mostly to smooth the output of the plant, not to store huge amounts overnight."

Batteries work great in electric cars because of the relatively high cost of gasoline. Solar has to compete with much cheaper power from coal and natural gas.

In neighboring California, another breakthrough of sorts is being watched, though this one is regulatory.

"In a bold move being closely watched by utilities, environmentalists and the clean technology industry, California on Thursday [Oct. 17] adopted the nation's first energy storage mandate", writes Dana Hull of the San Jose Mercury News.

(The) California Public Utilities Commission unanimously approved (a) groundbreaking proposal [PDF] that requires PG&E, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric to expand their capacity to store electricity, including renewable energy generated from solar and wind.

"Storage really is the game changer in the electric industry. And while this new policy is not without risk, the potential rewards are enormous," said Commissioner Mike Florio.

Solar advocates will not be the only ones watching the Solana plant. With a $1.45 billion loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, skeptics will also also be tracking its progress.

Friday, October 18, 2013 in The New York Times - Energy & Environment

Green rapid transit bus pulled into station in dedicated lane.

Indiana Once Again Considering Ban on Dedicated Transit Lanes

The proposed legislation would impact the construction of planned IndyGo Blue Line, the third phase of the city’s bus rapid transit system.

February 25, 2024 - Fox 59

View of 110 freeway with downtown Los Angeles buildings in background.

LA Freeway Ramp ‘Quietly Canceled’

A 2018 lawsuit forced Metro and Caltrans to do full environmental reviews of the project, leading to its cancellation.

February 29, 2024 - Streetsblog LA

View from shore of Sepulveda Basin water catchment basin with marsh plants along shore.

LA’s ‘Spongy’ Infrastructure Captured Almost 9 Billion Gallons of Water

The city is turning away from stormwater management practices that shuttle water to the ocean, building infrastructure that collects and directs it underground instead.

February 25, 2024 - Wired

Blue and white Pittsburgh bike share bikes lined up at a station with a red city bus on street in background.

Micromobility Operators Call for Better Links to Transit

For shared mobility to succeed, systems must tap into the connectivity and funding potential offered by closer collaboration with public transit.

March 4 - GovTech

New York MTA Bus

Retaining Transit Workers Is About More Than Wages

An analysis of California transit employees found a high rate of burnout among operators who face unpredictable work schedules, high housing costs, and occasional violence.

March 4 - Streetsblog California

View of Hollywood Reservoir with palm trees in foreground and Los Angeles neighobrhoods in background.

California's Stormwater Potential

A new study reveals that if California could collect and treat more stormwater in cities, it could provide enough water to supply a quarter of the state’s urban population.

March 4 - Cal Matters

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.