eSolar has embraced a modular approach for the development of utility-scale solar power tower thermal plants. This approach allows developers to size the total plant output to capacity requirements in increments of 12MW-thermal for direct steam and 50MW-thermal for molten salt solar fields. Therefore, a developer can precisely meet its thermal energy needs and budget by simply selecting the required number of eSolar field modules.
The eSolar modular fields offer options for either solar field molten salt or direct steam receivers. Solar thermal energy, unlike solar photovoltaic, collects and delivers thermal energy used in process heat applications. When used with the molten salt option, the eSolar molten solar fields generate the most affordable solar electricity as well as the most economical storage enabling operation around the clock . When used with the direct steam option, the eSolar steam generating fields are ideal for use in integrated solar combined cycle plants, solar steam augmentation hybrid plants, enhanced oil recovery and industrial processing.
The modular approach provides the developer flexibility in designing solutions to address a range of power and process heat applications for small projects of a few MWs such as mining and enhanced oil recovery operations to a hundred or more MWs for large electric power and desalination plants.
The modular approach also provides a developer the flexibility to build a smaller plant and later expand the plant’s capacity as demand increases. For example, a plant can initially be configured as a peaker plant (lower capacity factor) and later converted to a base-load plant (higher capacity factor) by adding additional fields when demand grows and the budget allows.
The eSolar modular approach is unlike the traditional design approach that requires a developer to settle with a single large solar field. For the traditional design practice, the field is anchored by one very large capacity receiver that typically exceeds 500MW-thermal along with a corresponding project cost that approaches $1B for a power plant. The rationale behind this is that the solar field configuration centers around the receiver situated atop of the power tower. Large receiver technology suppliers spend years and millions of dollars to design and qualify the receiver for reliability and performance. Once the large solar receiver design is completed and proven, its design is fixed and subsequent plant design is predicated on its preset capacity. Thus, the range of plant capacities able to be addressed by using the large receivers and single tower fields is very limited.