One type of solar power helps support another
A new development in an old form of solar energy could help spur investment in residential solar installations, according The New York Times.
One of the key problems facing the adoption of solar power systems is that they produce electricity passively, generating power only when the sun is out and without any control over output.
This can put strain on the electrical grid, as supply will not necessarily match demand. It becomes particularly difficult for utility companies that are hoping to avoid using heavily-polluting power plants to balance out the supply and demand equation.
A new type of solar thermal plant could help solve this problem, generating renewable electricity by using sunlight to heat water into steam. However, unlike photovoltaics, these systems can also use the steam to heat salt that will store the energy for later use.
This gives electricity companies access to a more responsive form of renewable electricity, helping to balance out the variations in production from solar installations without increasing carbon emissions.
Already, two companies have set about creating these new molten salt solar thermal power plants in California with the support of the federal government.