Melted Glaciers or Melted Salt?
If we do not put the molten salts into use, we may end up melting the glaciers. Molten salt technology is not as famous as other energy forms. Yet, the simplicity of molten salt technology is that energy can be produced based on the conventional methods. We need more of it!
The global energy needs and climate change are always talked about together. The reason is simple: growing energy demand and utilization is leading to anthropogenic climate change and pollution. The grave effects of conventional energy resources on human health and the ecosystem cannot be ignored for a long time. Therefore, use of renewable energy resources is of paramount importance. In this regard, the contribution of molten salt technology is relevant, but not as famous as other forms of energy production devices such as solar cells, wind turbines, hydrothermal plants, etc. The successful integration of the molten salt technology for energy production can significantly reduce the dependence on fossil fuels. The trick lies in where and how to use it economically, and this is where new ideas are needed. But first coming to its advantages: it uses low cost and abundant salts; solar concentrators can be used to heat the salts; and electricity can be generated using existing technologies.
Molten salts are capable of storing large amounts of heat energy (temperature can reach well above 500 °C) and releasing it slowly over long periods of time. The molten salt blocks can be integrated into heating systems of buildings and hotels, water heaters, and installed on roof-tops. If small-sized steam turbines can be installed, the electricity production during daytime can be taken care of. The heat is slowly released by the molten salt and hence the duration of steam production can be extended well into the night time, reducing the requirement of batteries as is the case with solar cells. Data exists about which sectors consume highest amount of energy, so the focus should be on making these sectors fossil-independent. In the end, systematic, interdisciplinary approach with good governance is needed to install customized (sector-specific) molten-salt plants. Tax benefits and other incentives should be used for encouragement.
Image courtesy of Vinamrita Singh
Netaji Subhas University of Technology, Delhi, India