Acciona puts its fourth concentrated solar power (CSP) plant into service in Spain

This solar thermal plant and its ‘twin’ Palma del Río II, grid connected in December 2010, represent an investment of around 500 million euros. The two Concentrating Solar Power plants have created 700 jobs during the construction phase and 50 for their operation.

Acciona Energy has put its 50 MW "Palma del Río I" Concentrating Solar Power plant into service to generate clean electricity equivalent to the consumption of around 35,000 homes. It represents an investment of around 247 million euros and it is the fourth CSP plant that the company has grid connected in Spain, taking its operating capacity in the country to 200 megawatts and achieving a market share of 23,5%.

Located in the municipality of the same name in Cordoba province, Palma del Río I enters service seven months after its ‘twin’ plant Palma del Río II, situated alongside it. Acciona has invested around 500 million euros in the two plants, creating 700 jobs in the construction phase and 50 for their operation. This is a strong economic boost, linked to a renewable technology that is destined to play a major role in the global energy mix.

The two Palma del Río Concentrated Solar Energy plants will generate renewable energy equivalent to the consumption of around 70,000 homes a year, avoiding the emission of approximately 220,000 metric tons of CO2 to the atmosphere from conventional coal-fired power stations, similar to the cleaning effect on the atmosphere of 11 million trees in the process of photosynthesis. They will also contribute to reducing energy dependence on external sources, displacing the use of fossil fuel of around 130,000 equivalent barrels of oil.

Acciona also has another two 50 MW CSP plants in Spain, located at Alvarado (Badajoz) and Majadas de Tiétar (Cáceres), and is now building another identical facility at Orellana (Badajoz), which is expected to enter service in late 2012.

The entry into service of Palma del Río I also boosts Acciona’s already strong presence in the world CSP sector. It has 264 MW in operation in the four Spanish plants -in which Mitsubishi Corporation has a 15% stake- and a fifth 64 MW facility in the Nevada desert (USA).

Exponential growth

Concentrated Solar Power is an ideal technology for the large-scale efficient production of electricity in areas with high levels of solar radiation. The sector ended 2010 with 1,292 MW installed worldwide, and this figure will rise exponentially in the next few years.

The capacity currently under construction already doubles the above figure, with 2,673 MW estimated by the consulting firm CSP Today, and there are a further 8,243 MW under development. According to Emerging Energy Research (EER) there will be more than 17,000 CSP megawatts installed in the world in 2015, a figure that the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates at 91,000 in 2035.

According to figures by the association Protermosolar, Spain now has an operating capacity of 802,4 MW, a figure that will increase to 852,4 MW with the incorporation of Palma del Río I. There are also another 1,600 MW under construction or development entered in the Industry Ministry’s register for pre-allocation of capacity, and the Renewable Energy Plan that the Government is about to publish estimates a capacity of 4,800 MW in 2020. This means multiplying the present capacity level by six.
Parabolic trough technology

Like the other Concentrating Solar Power plants developed by Acciona on a commercial scale, Palma del Río I is based on parabolic trough technology. This consists of mirrors installed in rows that concentrate the sun’s rays into pipes where a fluid is heated to around 400 degrees Celsius. This energy is then used to produce steam and drive a conventional turbine that, connected to a generator, produces electricity.

The plant has a solar field of 135 hectares -equivalent to 189 soccer pitches- where 792 collectors supporting 190,080 mirrors are located. The total linear distance covered is 76 kilometers (47.5 miles) with a solar radiation capture surface of 372,240 m2.