The plants are equipped with thermal storage which will allow them to continue to produce power, even when there is no solar radiation, for up to 7.5 hours.
In October 2011, under the patronage of His Majesty the King of Spain Juan Carlos I and His Highness General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces, Torresol Energy officially inaugurated Gemasolar in Fuentes Andalucia, Spain.
The Gemasolar facility represented a significant breakthrough in the global solar industry and an important new field of cooperation between Spain and the UAE.
The announcement was made during a press conference held by the President of Torresol Energy, Enrique Sendagorta; the COO of Masdar, Trevor Nash; the General Manager of Torresol Energy, Alvaro Lorente; the Director of Masdar Power, Frank Wouters; and the President and CEO of SENER, Jorge Sendagorta.
Construction on Valle 1 and Valle 2 began in December 2009, and was completed in December 2011. In January 2012 the plants were connected to Spanish national grid for commercial operations. Roughly 4,500 workers worked over 2,700,000 hours to build and launch the twin projects during the two construction years.
SENER led the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract for the two projects, as project manager, and has provided 100% of the technology and engineering for both plants. From the outset, the two plants were built sequentially, including processing various types of supplies, overseeing multiple contractors, providing quality control of the execution and, above all, planning and supervising construction as it progresses.
Each of the plants will produce 160 GWh of power per year, equivalent to the amount of power consumed by 40,000 households. Together, the two plants will cut CO2 emissions by approximately 90,000 tons/year. The thermal storage of the plants allows them to continue producing energy for 7.5 hours at full power capacity without sunlight. Solar power thus becomes a source of manageable energy capable of supplying to the grid based on power demand, regardless of whether it is day or night or if the weather is cloudy.
During the press conference, Enrique Sendagorta, President of Torresol Energy, said, "With these twin plants in Spain, Torresol Energy completes the first stage of our Strategic Plan. We now have three plants up and running, Valle 1 & Valle 2 and Gemasolar, in the South of Spain, and a proven track record that we can operate and carry out the maintenance of CSP plants both in power tower technology and parabolic trough technology. We expect to start soon on other CSP projects in different countries located in what is referred to as the sun-belt region."
Speaking on the project, Masdar’s CEO Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber said, "With the UAE’s visionary leadership and support, in just five years Masdar has become a prominent player in the renewable energy with several projects under its belt locally in the UAE and globally. Valle 1 & 2 are two additional milestones in Masdar’s portfolio of Concentrated Solar Power plants as a result of the joint venture with SENER. We are proud of this partnership with SENER and will continue making investments in utility scale projects in renewable energy, especially in solar and wind energy as they are the most relevant to the UAE."
The General Manager of Torresol Energy, Alvaro Lorente, declared, "It is worth mentioning that, due to the financial strength of Torresol Energy’s partners, SENER and Masdar, the Valle 1 and Valle 2 projects were financed through seven Spanish commercial banks in 2009 for a total financing of EUR540m, despite the global financial crisis. This operation was awarded the Project Finance Deal of the Year 2009 in the Clean Energy Sector by EuroMoney."
"Now that the two plants have started commissioning, we have a complete team of Operations & Maintenance (O&M) personnel that has been trained during 2011 to be able to operate and carry out the maintenance of these plants from day one," added Lorente.
Frank Wouters, Director of Masdar Power, said, "Getting Valle 1 & 2 into commercial operations has been a significant achievement for us. Getting Gemasolar, Valle 1 & 2 and (later this year) Shams One into operation means we already have over 200MW of CSP plants in operation globally. In addition, Masdar and Torresol Energy are exploring further business development opportunities to grow our CSP presence worldwide, including the MENA region where we also see a terrific opportunity in the solar space."
Lastly, Jorge Sendagorta, President and CEO of SENER, added, "SENER is leading the solar thermal power sector worldwide, with 24 plants in Spain, US and India that represent 1,500 MWe installed or under construction and 1,000,000 CO2 tons saved per year. We develop new innovations in every new project with the aim of improving our technology in order to reduce the investments cost of these plants. Besides, SENER has been in charge of the sequential construction of Valle 1 and Valle 2, a challenge for our project management team, and this has allowed us to improve the schedule and budget of the works."
Along with the Gemasolar plant, the two Valle plants will help Spain contribute to Europe’s 2020 climate and energy targets which aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, increase the use of renewables as a primary source of energy by 20% and reduce primary energy consumption by 20% through improved efficiency.
Torresol Energy is a company that promotes the technological development, construction, operation and maintenance of large concentrated solar power plants throughout the world. With the commissioning of Valle 1 and 2, the company has already developed three projects, including the innovative Gemasolar plant that started commercial operations in May 2011.
Torresol Energy’s projects have already won a number of awards including, Euromoney 2009 Project Finance Deal of the Year for Valle 1 and Valle 2 plants, the US CSP Today 2011 award ‘Commercialized Technology Innovation of the Year’ for Gemasolar, and the European CSP Today 2011 awards ‘Commercialized Technology Innovation 2011’ and ‘Most Effective Project Development 2011’ for Gemasolar.
In turn, SENER has also been awarded thanks to its solar solutions. At the end of 2011, SENER was awarded, mainly due to Gemasolar, the top European Business Award for Innovation. It won against nine other finalists in an extensive selection process that began in May 2011 and saw over 15,000 European companies competing for the honor. SENER was also awarded "Engineering Firm 2011" and "Increased Dispatchability Solution 2011" at the CSP Today awards, in recognition of its achievements in the CSP sector, specially the Gemasolar project development.