Spanish Solar-Thermal Investment Forecast at ?12.5 Billion

That will bring total Spanish investment in Concentrating Solar Power technology to 15 billion euros, national trade group Protermosolar said today in a report. Installed solar-thermal capacity is set to more than double this year, it forecast.

Spain sets higher prices for electricity produced by alternative energies than from fossil fuels. That helped turn the nation into the world leader in attracting solar-thermal developers such as Abengoa SA, a pioneer of the technology, which typically employs mirrors to heat water or liquids for powering conventional steam turbines, Iberdrola, Acciona and ACS.

Ten solar-thermal plants are producing power with an installed capacity of 382 megawatts. Before the end of 2010, more Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) plants will come in line boosting capacity to 831 megawatts, Protermosolar said.

By 2013 an estimated 60 plants with 2,500 megawatts of Concentrating Solar Power are expected, which may supply about 3 percent of national power demand, Protermosolar said.

Spain is one of the most advanced countries in the development of solar energy, since it is one of the countries of Europe with more hours of sunshine. The Spanish government is committed to achieving a target of 12 percent of primary energy from renewable energy by 2010 with an installed solar generating capacity of 3000 megawatts (MW).

Spain is the fourth largest manufacturer in the world of solar power technology and exports 80 percent of this output to Germany. Total Solar power in Spain was 3 GW by end of 2009. Solar energy has covered 3% of the electricity demand in 2009.

In March 2007, Europe’s first commercial concentrating solar power tower plant was opened near the sunny southern Spanish city of Seville. The 11 MW plant, known as the PS10 solar power tower, produces electricity with 624 large heliostats. Each of these mirrors has a surface measuring 120 square meters (1,290 square feet) that concentrates the Sun’s rays to the top of a 115 meter (377 feet) high tower where a solar receiver and a steam turbine are located. The turbine drives a generator, producing electricity.

The Andasol 1 solar power station is Europe’s first parabolic trough commercial power plant (50 MWe), located near Guadix in the province of Granada, Spain. The Andasol 1 power plant went online in November 2008, and has a thermal storage system which absorbs part of the heat produced in the solar field during the day. This heat is then stored in a molten salt mixture and used to generate electricity during the night, or when the sky is overcast.

A 15 MWe solar-only power tower plant, the Solar Tres project, is in the hands of the Spanish company SENER, employing United States molten salt technologies for receiving and energy storage. Its 16-hour molten salt storage system will be able to deliver power around the clock. The Solar Tres project has received a €5 million grant from the EC’s Fifth Framework Programme.

Solar thermal power plants designed for solar-only generation are well matched to summer noon peak loads in prosperous areas with significant cooling demands, such as Spain. Using thermal energy storage systems, solar thermal operating periods can even be extended to meet base-load needs.

Abengoa Solar began commercial operation of a 20-megawatt solar power tower plant near Seville in late April, 2009. Called the PS20, the plant uses a field of 1,255 flat mirrors, or heliostats, to concentrate sunlight on a receiver mounted on a central tower. Water pumped up the tower and through the receiver boils into steam, which is then directed through a turbine to produce electricity. The new facility is located adjacent to one with half its capacity, called PS10, which was the world’s first commercial solar power tower plant. According to Abengoa Solar, the new facility is exceeding its predicted power output.