SolarReserve has completed the central point of a solar project that uses molten salt storage to deliver power to the grid well after the sun has gone down.

The startup company today said it has completed the 540-foot tower of the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project near Tonopah, Nev., which is expected to start delivering 110 megawatts by the end of 2013. When it comes online, it’s projected to have 10 hours of storage, the longest full-load storage capacity for a solar plant.

Adding storage turns solar into a continuous power source and allows project developers to earn more money for their electricity. As a result, solar projects that use heat to make electricity have added molten salt storage to their facilities.

SolarReserve’s technology is different than traditional molten salt storage systems in that all electricity is generated from storage and there is only one working fluid–salt, heated to about 1,000 degrees.

In the summer, the Crescent Dunes project’s general contractor intends to start installing a field of 10,000 billboard-size sun-tracking mirrors called heliostats around the tower. Sunlight is reflected onto a 100-foot receiver which house a series of tubes of circulating salt. The heliostat field will be about two miles across.

Salt stored in a tank at 500 levels is pumped up from the bottom and heated up. Then the salt is circulated down into some other storage tank. while the utility calls for energy, the recent salt goes via any other warmth exchanger on the floor to make steam which drives a conventional electrical energy turbine.

Utility NV Energy expects to be drawing on the power plant between noon and until 10 p.m. or midnight since the bulk of its load is Las Vegas, said SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith.

That steady oconsistent withation thru storage ends up in more power produced over the process a 12 months compared to solar photovoltaic initiatives with the same power score. The 110-megawatt Crescent Dunes venture will produce about 500,000 megawatt-hours in step with year. A sun photovoltaic undertaking with one hundred ten megawatts capable of peak output might produce lower than part the power on a every year basis, Smith stated.

Funding for this size of project is significant. SolarReserve raised $260 in private equity and $737 million in debt from the Department of Energy’s Loan Guarantee program.

The company is already running on other projects, including larger ones in the middle East, Smith mentioned. however the principle problem, except finishing this venture, is bringing the price of electricity down. With the plunge in solar panel costs, a few large-scale sun projects have scrapped solar thermal technologies for photovoltaics.

The cost for power from this plant is projected to be thirteen.five cents according to kilowatt-hour and can move up 1 p.c a year right through its 25-12 months energy purchase agreement. That’s less expensive than a brand new nuclear power plant or a coal plant with carbon seize and garage, however more expensive than a new herbal gas plant, Smith said

This technology has been well proven. (But) this is project No. 1, so it’s like a hand-crafted large-scale project, he said. The key for future projects is to make improvements on the pricing.