(Black Press Media file photo)

FOREST INK: Using salts to capture and store solar thermal energy

There are a number of ways to store solar energy.

There are a number of ways to store solar energy. For example: underground water reservoirs, bore holes in the earth, or concrete mass in buildings as well as a variety of salts.

In California, solar thermal energy is collected through the day and stored so that electricity can be produced during the period of peak demand (after sunset) which has usually used natural gas to supplement the usual sources of hydro electric or photovoltaic cells.

Research is ongoing to test a variety of storage sources including molten salts. The advantage of salts is they could be used on site where drilling or water sources are not economical. They lose only about one degree of heat a day, so it is possible to store — and top up — this thermal energy for months.

As described above it is more profitable to use the stored energy daily; to get paid for the daily and nightly deliveries of electricity. It is possible to size thermal solar energy storage capacity relative to the solar panels that harvests the sunlight, so that it can be stored for months. The salts are very stable and can be heated and cooled daily for at least 30 years or more. Using salts for heat storage is not new, Dr. Maria Telkas, University of Delaware, proved that Glauber’s Salt technology was sound and economical some 30 years ago and has been successful in Europe because their fossil fuel costs are much higher than here.

READ MORE: Building soil health through biodiversity

Without the huge subsidies for fossil fuels solar designs and phase change materials make tremendous logical sense when you do the math. For example, stone and brick have about 0.2 cal/gram/deg Celsius heat capacity.

The different mixtures of Glauber’s salts, have about 50 to 80 cal/gram during the phase change compared to water which is one cal/gram/deg. This allows salts to be used effectively for space heating in single family homes especially ones designed to use passive solar heat.

Using solar thermal power has a number of advantages over existing sources including the relatively clean hydro electric power. Hydro not only uses some of our most valuable valley lands, the remote dams often mean expensive power lines which are prone to disruptions from ice storms like the one in Quebec and possibly terrorist attacks.

All of the fossil fuel use requires costly and dangerous / polluting methods of processing and transportation in addition to the green house gas problems. These mega projects often have huge cost over runs like the recent increased estimate of the oil pipeline.

In contrast solar thermal systems can be designed for communities or single business and / or residents which can be close to self sufficient, off the grid and more immune to the constant threat of increasing monthly costs.

The government could help out with more realistic estimates of energy costs including the use of incentives and penalties to encourage less polluting solar systems. One factor that is often missed is the negative impact on health especially from coal use.

A recent study of the improved consequences of converting coal generation with new shale gas has shown that an area in the U.S. where coal plants were phased out there were 26,000 less pollution related deaths. The study showed the crops did much better as well with 570-million more bushels of a variety of crops produced following conversions of coal to gas.

Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
editor@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19 case confirmed at Subway restaurant in Cache Creek

Customers who visited the site from March 25 to 27 are asked to self-isolate

CRD reminds residents to prepare for spring freshet

As temperatures warm up residents are asked to proactively address flooding issues

Geotechnical assessment slated for Soda Creek MacAlister Road slide area

The road is closed indefinitely, no residents completely cut off

Tsilhqot’in National Government declares state of emergency in all 6 communities

The move comes to protect elders and community against threat of COVID-19

B.C. records five new COVID-19 deaths, ‘zero chance’ life will return to normal in April

Province continue to have a recovery rate of about 50 per cent

John Horgan extends B.C.’s state of emergency for COVID-19

Premier urges everyone to follow Dr. Bonnie Henry’s advice

B.C.’s first community COVID-19 death was dentist ‘dedicated’ to health: lawyer

Vincent was 64 when he died on March 22 after attending the Pacific Dental Conference

Two inmates at prison housing Robert Pickton test positive for COVID-19

Correctional Service of Canada did not release any details on the identities of the inmates

BC SPCA launches matching campaign to help vulnerable animals after big donations

Two BC SPCA donors have offered up to $65,000 in matching donations

Quarantined B.C. mom say pandemic has put special-needs families in ‘crisis mode’

Surrey’s Christine Williams shares family’s challenges, strengths

Anti-tax group calls for MPs, senators to donate scheduled pay raises to charity

Bill C-30, adopted 15 years ago, mandates the salary and allowance increases each calendar year

Two arrested after man lies about COVID-19 illness to stay in Victoria Airbnb for free

Victoria Police found stolen goods inside the occupied unit

Liberals delay release of 75% wage subsidy details, costs: Morneau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

Most Read