First 24-Hour Concentrated Solar Power Plant in Spain

His Majesty the King of Spain Juan Carlos I and His Highness General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces today officially inaugurated the world’s first power plant capable of 24-hour, uninterrupted electricity generation from the sun in the presence of His Highness Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan, National Security Advisor and Vice Chairman of the Executive Council and His Highness Sheikh Abdulla bin Zayed Al Nayhan, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

His Majesty and His Highness were received by: His Excellency Mohamed bin Dhaen Al Hamli, UAE Minister of Energy; His Excellency Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Affairs Authority and Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Abu Dhabi Government-owned investment vehicle Mubadala Development Company; Her Excellency Hissa Abdulla Al Otaiba, UAE Ambassador to Spain; His Excellency Major General Essa Saif Mohammed Al Mazrouei, Deputy Chief of Staff of the UAE Armed Forces; His Excellency Mohammed Mubarak Al Mazroui, Undersecretary at the Crown Prince’s Court; His Excellency Ahmed Al Sayegh, Chairman of Abu Dhabi’s multifaceted renewable energy company Masdar; Mr. Carlos Obeid, Chief Financial Officer of Mubadala; other dignitaries and high-ranking officials.

The ceremony was also atended by Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Trinidad Jimenez; Spanish Minister for Industry, Tourism and Trade, Miguel Sebastian; Jorge Sendagorta, President of SENER; Enrique Sendagorta, President of Torresol Energy and Jose Antonio Grinan, President of the Andalusian Autonomous Government (Junta de Andalucia).

His Highness General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed and His Majesty the King of Spain Juan Carlos I toured different areas of the facility and received presentations from representatives of Masdar, Torresol Energy and SENER about the technological significance of the plant.

Speaking at the event, Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, CEO of Masdar said, "Today is an important milestone in the realization of the Abu Dhabi vision, laid out by our forward thinking leadership. The extraordinary vision of our President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan, and the passion and dedication of His Highness General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan has enabled Abu Dhabi to be build bridges with like-minded nations in the effort to address the world’s greatest current and future challenges, like energy security, climate change mitigation, developing clean technologies and sustainable human development. It is ultimately this vision that guided us to today’s inauguration of the most commercially and technologically significant solar plant in the world."

"Our country is offering to contribute our strengths and expertise as an energy exporter. Through Masdar, we are working with international partners to develop and deploy the most recent scientific and technological innovations, increasing the role of renewable energy as part of a diversified energy mix alongside oil, gas and safe, secure nuclear. In this way, we will build on the UAE’s role by also becoming a global provider of future energy knowledge and expertise," he added.

Al Jaber added, "UAE and Spain share a common interest in developing solar power. Abu Dhabi’s initiative to develop renewable energy and clean tech solutions complements and is underpinned by its existing strong position and strength in the hydrocarbon industry."

"The benefits of this plant extend beyond technology development to economic and social development and we look forward to working with other nations on opportunities to benefit from this significant achievement," Al Jaber added.

"Ultimately, this technology advances the potential of providing dispatchable solar energy at competitive prices to the grid," he said.

Enrique Sendagorta stated, "We want to become a global company that develops the use of concentrated solar power as a sustainable source of power and therefore contribute to the protection of the environment for the future generations. The start up of this plant that we inaugurate today is a first decisive step in our way. Gemasolar, owned by Torresol Energy, would not have been possible without the contributions of its partners: SENER and Masdar."

In turn, Jorge Sendagorta added, "In the last decade, SENER has dedicated an enormous intellectual and economical effort to the advance and commercial deployment of the thermoelectric generation from concentrated solar power. An effort that has given its results, as we have materialized three important contributions to the development of this technology, the thermal storage, that improves drastically the plant availability and makes it possible to generate power even when there is no sunshine; the thermoelectric efficiency increase, with receivers that operate at very high temperatures; and the cost reduction with industrialized designs and processes. All these innovations are particularly demonstrated in this plant, Gemasolar."

His Majesty and His Highness unveiled a memorial plaque following which commemorative photos were taken. The collaboration marks a key milestone in the UAE’s growing role in the global energy sector, as a provider of renewable energy knowledge and expertise.

It also builds on a tradition of forging close and cooperative international relations that are now moving into a new era as the UAE strives to increase the share of renewable energy in the energy mix, which is essential to meet the challenges of climate change mitigation and energy security.

The Gemasolar concentrated solar power (CSP) plant, located at Fuentes de Andalucia in Seville, Spain and owned by Torresol Energy, a joint venture between Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s multi-faceted renewable energy company and SENER, the leading Spanish engineering and construction firm, is the world’s first commercial plant to use molten salt thermal storage in a central tower configuration with a heliostat field and is expected to have a major impact of the future of the global solar industry. Torresol Energy owns the intellectual property rights to the leading edge technology.

The development of the plant is the direct result of the UAE leadership’s progressive plans to further the nation’s leading role in the global energy sector and build an open and positive platform for international cooperation and collaboration by driving worldwide endeavors to diversify the energy portfolio.

The 185 hectare site consists of a field of 2,650 heliostats (mirrors) that reflect the sun’s rays onto a 140m-high central tower, concentrating solar irradiation at a ratio of 1000:1.

The use of salt, rather than oil, to transfer the heat generated from the concentrated sunlight, allows Gemasolar to operate at temperatures of over 550C, much higher than plants with parabolic trough technology. This in turn generates hotter, pressurized steam to move the turbine, which significantly increases the plant’s efficiency.

Storing the hot salt also means electricity generation can continue for up to 15 hours even when there is no sunshine, a capability which could transform the solar industry.

Gemasolar, with a 19.9MW turbine and expected net electrical production of 110 GWh/year, started supplying electricity earlier this year through a high-tension line to the substation of Villanueva del Rey (Andalusia, Spain), where it is injected into the grid. It will supply to 25,000 homes in southern Spain, at full capacity, and is expected to save more than 30,000 tonnes of CO2 emission a year.

Torresol Energy, which commercially develops, manages construction, owns and operates CSP plants globally, has been awarded a 25-year regulated tariff by the Spanish Government. It is developing two further facilities – Valle 1 and Valle 2 – in nearby Cadiz. These 50MW facilities will employ parabolic trough technology and have an expected net electrical production of 160 GWh/year each – equivalent to the average consumption of 40,000 households. The two plants will together help save 90,000 tonnes of CO2 a year. Both are scheduled to commence start operations by the end of 2011.

These facilities will help Spain contribute to Europe’s 2020 climate and energy targets which aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, increase to 20% the use of renewables as a primary source of energy and reduce primary energy consumption by 20% through improved efficiency.

A EUR171m financing facility was secured through the open market in 2008 for the construction of Gemasolar, led by Banco Popular, Banesto and the Instituto de Credito Oficial, with EUR90m of this facility provided by the European Investment Bank. A further Euro 540 million of project finance loans was secured for the construction of Valle 1 and Valle 2.

Raising this amount for a first-of-its-kind technology at a commercial scale shows what Masdar and SENER are capable of as strong, credible technology partners. The support of EIB was also very important to the viability of this project, total investment in the three facilities came to Euro 1bn ($1.4bn).

Gemasolar has already won a number of awards including ‘Commercialized Technology Innovation of the Year’ and the Ruban d’Honneur title in the prestigious European Business Awards.

Masdar Power, one of the five integrated units of Masdar, is mandated to build and operate a portfolio of large scale renewable energy power projects. It is currently implementing major projects such as the 100MW Shams-One solar plant in the UAE, as well as international projects including the 1,000MW London Array offshore wind farm.