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© Markus Steur, DLR
German Trends and Innovations

March 20, 2008

Put the Sun in Your Tank

Industrial companies need a reliable energy supply around the clock. That is why solar energy has so far played only a small role for manufacturing firms. An invention of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) will possibly change that. Utilizing the power of the sun at night or in cloudy weather will no longer remain a dream. In November 2007, for the first time, DLR researchers used a heat storage unit that can temporarily store steam generated in solarthermal power plants for several hours and return it to the generating plant when required, in other words, also at night. The innovative facility is operated at the largest European solar energy test centre, Plataforma Solar de Almería in Spain. The storage unit outputs 100 kilowatts and handles solar-generated steam with a temperature of between 200 and 300 degrees Celsius. Until now, no system conceived for the operating temperatures of solar thermal power plants has outlived the test phase. No one had managed to produce a storage unit with sufficient power density. The DLR scientists succeeded with a sandwich design that combines several alternate layers of graphite foil and storage material. The potential of this design has not yet been fully exploited. The German Aerospace Center has already announced the launch of a follow-up project with an even more ambitious goal: the engineers plan to expand their storage principle to a one-megawatt plant. This would even involve maintaining steam temperatures of over 300 degrees Celsius for many hours, which would make round-the-clock solar energy attractive not only for solar thermal power plants.

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© Deutschland magazine/February/March 2008/Roland Knauer



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