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Case History 19

silica sand vertical elevator

Case History 19

Concentrating Solar Power Pilot Plant

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Casing Diameter: 10 inches
Elevation: 24 feet
Rate per hour: 40 tons
Material: Ceramic Beads
Temperature: 1,292°F (700°C)


The U.S. Department of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratory built a pilot scale Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) plant to test a new Solar Receiver using ceramic beads as the Heat Transfer Fluid. CSP involves capturing the heat from the sun via an array of mirrors (heliostats) that focus a concentrated beam of sunlight onto a single point where the thermal energy is transferred to a heat transfer fluid (HTF) like synthetic oil or molten salt. Both of these HTF’s are limited to how hot they can be heated: 400°C for oil and 650°C for salt. Ceramic beads, however can be heated to 700°C, or higher, which allows for a more efficient conversion of energy to power an electric turbine. After the heat is extracted from the HTF to make electricity, the now “cool” (700°C) HTF is returned to the Olds elevator for elevation to the top of the solar tower to be re-heated to 800°C once again.

The unique design of the Olds elevator allows it to handle high temperature materials without mechanical interference of moving parts due to thermal expansion.

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