Concentrating solar power projects growth in 2009

The 5 MWac Sierra SunTower from eSolar, the 2 MWac Holaniku trough from Sopogy and the 5 MWac Kimberlina linear Fresnel system from Areva Solar (formerly Ausra) came online during 2009. The Sierra SunTower is the first power tower operating in the U.S. in a decade and Holaniku is the first CSP facility to come online in Hawaii.

Also last year, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced two initiatives to speed the development of solar energy on public lands. First, four Renewable Energy Coordination Offices were established across the west (in California, Nevada, Wyoming and Arizona), along with renewable energy teams in five other offices.

Second, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) identified 14 solar energy projects that were in position to qualify for stimulus-related funding, if permitted during 2010. BLM and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service have focused their resources on getting these "fast-track" projects through the permitting process so they can commence construction by Dec.31, 2010.

The trade association said the United States now has 432 MW of operational CSP plants in commercial production (as of March 2010), making it the world leader in installed CSP. At least three additional CSP facilities are likely to come online in 2010: a 2 MWac Stirling dish installation in Phoenix, Ariz., a 4 MWth trough plant displacing coal-fired generation in Grand Junction, Colo. and the 75 MW Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center hybrid trough in Martin County, Fla.

With the completion of these three projects by the end of the year, the U.S. will maintain its healthy lead over Spain in CSP capacity, with more than 500 MW installed.

Spain added more new CSP capacity than any other country in 2009, leading both the U.S. and China by a wide margin with 120 MW added. Spain ranks second after the U.S. in total CSP capacity with 181 MW installed.

Solar power companies are planning to invest a record 12.5 billion euros ($16.7 billion) in Spanish solar-thermal plants through 2013, seeking to benefit from government-set premium power rates for clean energies.

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.