Egypt?s first Concentrating Solar Power plant goes into operation in Kuraymat

Hybrid power plant with 150 MW capacity will use concentrated solar energy and natural gas and can be operated around the clock. Commissioning as an important indication that the DESERTEC concept can be realized.

In Kuraymat, roughly 100 kilometers south of Cairo, a major solar-thermal power plant is going into operation for the first time in Egypt. The solar field consists of parabolic trough collectors with an overall surface area of 130,000 m² and is part of a hybrid power plant that will use both Concentrating Solar Power and natural gas to generate electricity. In the scope of starting up operations, the last few days saw the entire solar field being directed at the sun and the heat energy being fed into the heat exchanger in the power block for the first time.

The solar technology for this reference project has been provided by Flagsol GmbH, a subsidiary of the Erlangen-based company Solar Millennium AG (74.9 percent, ISIN DE0007218406) and Essen-based Ferrostaal AG (25.1 percent). Flagsol designed the solar field, delivered the control for the solar field and was responsible for supplying important key components, primarily the parabolic mirrors and absorber pipes.

The solar field was built and is put into operation in cooperation with the Egyptian company Orascom Construction Industries. The Kuraymat hybrid power plant will have an overall capacity of 150 megawatts of electricity, which will be generated using solar power and natural gas. In an assembly hall on the site, skilled Egyptian workers had assembled mirrors with a total surface area of around 130,000 m2.

The collectors, which were six meters high, were subsequently installed in the solar field in rows of parabolic trough mirrors several hundreds of meters long. All 2,000 collectors in the solar field are automatically directed towards the position of the sun.

The Kuraymat site benefits from more than 2,400 kilowatt hours of solar irradiation per square meter and year on average. The solar irradiation, which is channeled to parabolicshapedmirrors, is reflected onto an absorber pipe in the focal line of the collector. The vacuum-isolated absorber pipes contain a circulating heat transfer fluid, which is heated up to 300-400 degrees through the concentrated sunlight. The heat transfer fluid is then pumped into the central power block and the thermal energy coming from the solar field is converted into electrical energy.

“The hybrid power plant can be operated without interruption, thereby supplying electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” explains Matthias Strub, Technical Project Manager at Flagsol. “It’s the first plant of its kind in Egypt, which makes it an important reference for future investments.”

Oliver Blamberger, member of the Executive Board of Solar Millennium, also underscores the importance of the concentrated solar energy project: “With Kuraymat we’ve shown that electricity from the deserts of North Africa is no longer dream of the future. Our technology is proof that the DESERTEC Solar Millennium 2/3 December 2010 idea can be realized, as can the successful European-African cooperation in the field of renewable energy.”

The hybrid power plant in Kuraymat was tendered internationally and commissioned by the Egyptian energy authority NREA. The overall cost came out to more than € 250 million, 30 percent of which went to realizing the solar field. Given the fact that the project can serve as an example for future projects, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) has provided a grant of around US$ 50 million for the solar field.

The generation of electricity and the feed-in into the Egyptian grid are to start at the beginning of 2011, as soon as the conventional part with the turbine has also gone into operation. After the start of operations, Flagsol and Orascom Construction Industries will operate the solar part of the power plant for two years before ultimately handing it over to the owner.

Solar Millennium AG, Erlangen, is an international company in the renewable energy sector, with its main focus on solar-thermal power plants. Together with its subsidiaries and associates, the Company specializes in parabolic trough power plants and has managed to take a globally leading position in this field.

Solar Millennium strives to further extend its expertise in the area of solar-thermal power plants with the aim of achieving and securing sustainable technology leadership. As such, the Company covers all important business sectors along the value chain for solar-thermal power plants: from project development and financing to the technology and the turnkey construction and operation of power plants.

In Spain, Solar Millennium developed Europe’s first parabolic trough power plants and realized these together with partners. Additional projects are planned around the world with an overall capacity of more than 2,000 megawatts: here the current regional focus is on Spain, the US, India, China, the Middle East and North Africa.

Solar-thermal power plants generate electricity by converting solar radiation into heat energy. In a parabolic trough power plant, trough-shaped mirrors concentrate the incidental radiation onto a pipe in the focal line of the collector. Its absorption heats a fluid heat medium in the pipe, generating steam in the power block through a heat exchanger. As in conventional power plants, the steam powers a turbine to generate electricity. By integrating thermal storage, electricity can be supplied on demand, even after sunset.