Stainless steel renewable energy

Stainless steel in renewable energy applications

Jolanda Heunen - 2 April 2015

Renewable energy technologies are becoming more and more important, and stainless steel is a much seen metal in the new generation plants.

About the author

Ms Jolanda Heunen
Jolanda Heunen is Editor Print & Online for Managing Aging Plants and 3D fab+print. She is also Conference Coordinator for the Managing Aging Plants (MAP) Europe Conference.
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In Kansas, U.S., a new-generation plant was constructed by Abengoa Bioenergy to produce renewable liquid from cellulosic biomass. This plant is a gleaming complex of stainless steel tanks, towers and pipes, and there are many more renewable energy technologies in which stainless steel plays a very important role. Currently, renewable energy sources can roughly be divided into five varieties: biomass, solar, offshore wind, geothermal, and blue energy. All these sources of renewable energy and energy saving applications offer a stage for stainless steel to shine.

Biomass energy

In biogas production, corrosive compounds are a by-product of the biogas process. To avoid damage to equipment, stainless steel is used in these plants for valves, pumps, pipes, fittings, and digester tanks. Next to the corrosion resistance, the use of stainless steel for a digester tank also has some other advantages, such as that a digester tank can be completed within a week, and that there is residual value once the lifetime of use in the plant is over.

Blue energy

To provide maintenance-free and long-lasting solutions, stainless steels are widely applied in the relatively new renewable energy field of blue energy. To protect the systems from seawater corrosion, abrasion, and bio-fouling, stainless steels form the basis for harnessing the potential of blue energy.

Calpine Geysers

An example of geothermal energy: The Geysers, Middletown

Geothermal energy

Hot water from natural springs, like geysers, may well be the oldest form in which human kind has been making use of renewable energy. Because the water that is produced in geothermal sources is extremely hot, it is crucial to use corrosion resistant material, stainless steel, in order to ensure a safe and long operation of components such as heat exchangers, condensers, piping, filters, pumps and valves.

Offshore wind energy

The corrosive seawater environment in which offshore wind mills are located simply demands the use of corrosion resistant material. Stainless steel is therefor used in applications such as fasteners, safety cables, davit cranes, and fittings. Stainless steel ensures a lifetime of wind turbines of fifty years or more and minimises the needed maintenance.

Solar energy

In thermo-solar energy, stainless steels are typically used for both the inner and outer shells of water tanks, cushion absorbers, frames and fasteners. They are formed to complex shapes in order to maximise heat transfer. To make sure the absorption of sunlight is also maximised, organic and other coatings are applied.

Of course there are many more (future) application possibilities of stainless steel in producing green energy, so Stainless Steel World will keep a close eye on the developments in the field of renewable power generation.

Header image by Collin Key (Flickr).

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