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Pumps/Solar Power Empowering Solar Energy: How to Pump Liquid Sunshine

Author / Editor: Michaela Wassenberg* / Dominik Stephan

High-performance pumps for challenging applications in solar systems — When it comes to using solar energy, new heat transfer media are in high demand. Among the most promising candidates are in fact molten salts. But the handling of these new thermal medias quickly proves more difficult than it appears...

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Renewable energies are on the advance — above all solar energy.
Renewable energies are on the advance — above all solar energy.
(Source: Courtesy of / Solar Millennium)

The Kyoto Agreement of 1997, the Paris Agreement in 2015, and the phase out of nuclear energy: Climate protection and, as a result, the need for alternative sources are on the agenda worldwide. The energy industry is focusing on renewable energies such as wind, solar or hydro-power. Since the early 1990s, solar power has been part of the global energy landscape, and the trend is rising: Already in 2015, more than 250 billion kilowatt hours were generated worldwide from photovoltaics alone. But the manufacturers of solar energy plant systems are also facing a constant surge of new challenges as well as a continuous demand for innovation in order to be able to serve the growing market.

As a result, new technologies have risen to the challenge: As the demand for solar energy is constantly growing, also concentrated solar power systems are being further developed and optimised in order to generate more energy and to use it efficiently. In addition to traditional thermal fluids like oil and gas, new heat transfer media such as molten salts have been tested over the past twenty years with great success. Today, many plant operators are already fully relying on thermally highly efficient molten salts as a heat transfer medium and, above all, as a heat accumulator for solar power plants. But the high medium temperatures poses certain challenges for pump manufacturers.