The new joint venture (JV) consisting of startup Wilson Solarpower and Shenzhen Enesoon Science and Technology Co. intends to build 2500 plants in China by 2021, deploying new technology combining solar plus storage for nonstop operation. Wilson Solarpower has developed a new concentrated solar power (CSP) system called 247Solar that can produce electricity during every hour of the day, every day of the year, regardless of whether the sun is shining. The system concentrates and captures the sun’s energy to heat air – instead of water, typical of first-generation CSP – that then drives a jet-engine-like turbine to produce electricity. The new design is competitive with electricity from PV and achieves non-stop power generation by storing the sun’s heat in a large insulated vessel filled with low-cost firebrick for use at night. When storage is depleted, small amounts of fuel can be burned to maintain output. Costs are a fraction of those associated with batteries.
The first stage of the project will be to deploy and demonstrate the first 247Solar plant in China, followed by the deployment of 1000 MW of plants across China by 2021. The project was selected in 2015 by the US-China EcoPartnership Programme, sponsored by the US Department of State and China’s National Development Resources Commission (NRDC).
“China is rapidly emerging as the most aggressive and fastest growing market in the world for CSP” said Bruce Anderson, 247Solar CEO. “The achievement of forming a joint venture of this magnitude within a year of product launch is a powerful indicator of the overwhelming breadth and seriousness of the interest throughout the world in our next-generation CSP product, the 247Solar Plant”.
Zhiyong Zeng, Enesoon CEO, added that Enesoon searched worldwide for the most promising CSP technology, carefully assessing all possibilities. The company decided on 247Solar because of low costs and the ability to construct and operate plants quickly and simply.
The technology to be deployed as part of the JV is based on two clean energy technologies invented by Wilson Solarpower, a spinoff from Massachussets Institute of Technology (MIT), capable of generating power every hour, every day of the year, just like conventional coal and nuclear facilities. The plants improve grid performance by flexibly and instantly responding to the load requirements of the grid or other customers, instead of presenting a potential challenge for grid operators due to intermittency.
Every 247Solar plant is identical to the next for continuous cost reduction through factory production, an approach that enables rapid on-site assembly and short, lower risk project cycles.
China is emerging as the world’s largest CSP market, after having already become the world’s largest market for PV and wind due to the country’s 12th 5-year plan in 2011. China’s 13th 5-year plan became effective on January 1st this year and its major emphasis is on CSP. In response, Chinese companies are gearing up for potentially explosive business opportunities. 247Solar is in negotiations with other Chinese companies wanting to build additional power projects using the plants.
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