Acciona Energy’s 50 MW "Palma del Río II" concentrated solar power (CSP) plant has entered service, making it the company with the highest solar thermal installed capacity in the world (214 MW in three Concentrating Solar Power plants in Spain and one in the United States).
With a world market share of 17%, ACCIONA has consolidated itself as a benchmark in a renewable technology that is expected to grow strongly over the next few decades – 91,000 MW by 2035 according to the core scenario of the International Energy Agency (AIE) – in contrast to the 1,300 MW (approx.) forecast by the end of this year.
The start-up of the plant also strengthens the company’s position in Spain, the first country in the world in the implementation of CSP with 32 MW. Spain has recently approved a law guaranteeing regulatory stability for plants entered in the country’s Register for Pre-allocation of the Special Regime.
"Palma del Río II", located in the municipality of the same name in Cordoba province, represents an investment of 251 million euros. The plant is similar to another one that Acciona is currently building on an adjacent site (Palma del Río I).
The two plants will generate around 232 million kilowatt-hours a year, equivalent to the electricity demand of approximately 77,000 homes, thus avoiding the emission of 223,000 metric tons of CO2 to the atmosphere from conventional coal-fired power stations, with a cleaning effect equivalent to 11 million trees through the process of photosynthesis. They will also help to reduce external energy dependence by about 130,000 barrels of oil per year.
The two CSP plants at Palma del Río are also having a strong impact on employment in the region, with the creation of around 700 jobs in the construction phase and a further 60 permanent jobs in the operation and maintenance of the plants.
Parabolic trough technology
As in the other plants developed by Acciona, "Palma del Río II" uses parabolic trough technology, which refers to the shape of the mirrors aligned in rows that concentrate the sun’s rays onto a fluid that heats up to around 400 ºC. This energy is then used to produce steam and drive a conventional turbine which, connected to a generator, produces electricity.
The plant has a solar field of 135 hectares – equivalent to 189 soccer fields – on which 792 collectors have been installed with 190,080 mirrors. The mirrors cover a linear distance of 76 kilometers, with a solar capture surface of 372,240 m2.
An investment of € 1,200 million in five Concentrating Solar Power plants
In recent years Acciona has made a great effort in the implementation of CSP. In June 2007 it put the 64 MW Nevada Solar One (NSO) plant into service in the Nevada desert (USA). This facility was the first of its type constructed in the world following those installed in California in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and was a milestone in the development of this technology. The excellent results achieved and the experience gained from its operation were decisive when the company decided to undertake CSP projects in Spain.
The first of these – Alvarado (50 MW) in Badajoz province – started up in September 2009. In October 2010 Majadas (50 MW) entered service, now Palma del Río II, and in summer 2011 Palma del Río I (also 50 MW) will come on stream to make a total of 264 MW of operational capacity. The total investment in these plants is around 1,200 billion euros.
The company will shortly being construction work on its sixth CSP plant (Orellana, in Badajoz, also of 50 MW and registered, like the others in Spain, in the Register of Pre-allocation of the Special Regime of the Ministry of Industry).
CSP: the biggest percentage increase over the coming decades
CSP technology is one of the latest to join the range of renewable energy sources, and estimates for its growth are very strong. Just in 2010 the capacity in this technology will be doubled, from 606 MW at the start of the year to 1,292 MW by the end, according to estimates from the consultancy company Emerging Energy Research in its report titled "Concentrated Solar Power at a Crossroads" (May 2010).
This report estimates that more than 17,000 MW of CSP will be installed by 2015.
For its part, in its new policies scenario’ ("World Energy Outlook 2010"), which covers the objectives stated by different countries in the development of renewables, the International Energy Agency estimates that CSP will grow between 2008 and 2035 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.3% – the highest of all renewable technologies – until the figure of 91,000 MW in operation is reached.
Acciona Energy offers its clients the option of developing projects in the main renewables technologies: wind power, concentrated solar power, photovoltaic, biomass, hydropower and biofuels.
In wind energy Acciona implemented and operate over 260 wind farm plants with more than 7,000 wind turbines of different technologies, in all kinds of environmental and orographic conditions.