20 January 2009 – Masdar, the energy initiative of Abu Dhabi, will set up a 17 MW utility grade solar power plant in Spain at a cost of €171m ($228m) in strategic alliance with Spanish engineering group SENER.
According to the SENER officials, who are in Abu Dhabi to attend the ongoing World Future Energy Summit (WFES), the joint venture between Masdar and SENER is known as Torresol Energy and the solar plant to be set up at Fuentes de Andalucia, in Seville in Spain will be called Gemasolar.
Gemasolar is the world’s first utility grade solar power plant with central tower and salt receiver technology and will provide clean and safe energy, apart from creating 1500 jobs in Spain, the company sources said.
Experts clarified that this is an entirely different technology from the conventional solar PV technology. The project will open the way for a new solar thermal electricity that is a better alternative to cylindrical-parabolic type commercial thermal power plants that are currently being built.
The funding has been secured through the open market with Banco Popular, Banesto and the Instituto de Credito acting as the mandated lead arrangers. This highlights the attractive proposition that the strategic alliance offers in this challenging financial market, the officials said.
The plant will be operational in 2011 and when it generates 17 MW of electricity it will reduce more than 50 000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
The EPC contract for the project has been awarded to a consortium including SENER and AMSA, an ACS Cobra subsidiary. In the consortium, SENER will be in charge of providing technology, the detail design and commissioning of the plant. The technology includes a solar receiver which is able to absorb 95 per cent of the radiation from the sun’s spectrum and transmit energy, the company sources said.
The technology provided includes the innovative thermal molten salts storage system, which is capable of reaching temperatures over 500 degrees centigrade.
In terms of performance and operation, the technology inherent within the Gemasolar plant will treble electricity production in the rest of the thermo-electric solar power plants with the same power but under conventional technology basis.
This is due to the fact that the majority of thermoelectric plants, that are being developed, do not have a thermal storage system, whilst Gemasolar has high temperature heat storage that extends the normal operating period of these plants, the company officials said.
Salts, made up by sodium and potassium nitrates, are kept molten using the solar energy collected from the heliostats, so that they store excess accumulated heat during sunshine hours, which makes it possible to continue to produce electricity even when there is not enough solar radiation.
Due to this advanced technology, Gemasolar’s autonomy will be 15 hours without sunlight. The high temperature at which solar energy in captured in the salt receiver allows to have more pressurised and hotter steam, which considerably increases the steam turbine’s performance, the officials explained