The Energy Department national solar thermal test facility (NSTTF), operated by the Division of Sandia National Laboratories was recently overhauled. The updating of the NSTTF $17.8 million State-of-the-art test features added. The resulting research in the plant is expected to lead to more use of solar power across the grid.
The American recovery and Reinvestment Act funded the project of nine part consisting of about new additions and updates at the test center, of which much had not been updated since it was built in 1976. Improvements include a new $10 million molten salt test loop, an optical process laboratory and others add critical test features and updating the parabolic trough test platform. It included also an investment of $3.8 million to 218 original aimed heliostat mirrors of the solar Tower, a significant improvement, because glass and reflective technology have change significantly over the last three decades to replace.
The system uses concentrating solar power (CSP), the mirror, the heat of the Sun on a receiver focus employs. The receiver takes thermal energy which can immediately generate electricity or save for later use. CSP receiver increasingly use molten salt to store the heat from the Sun because it is cheap and stores the heat over a longer period, offers greater flexibility for the grid.