First EU Commercial Concentrating Solar Power Tower Opens in Spain

SEVILLE, Spain, March 30, 2007 (ENS) - Europe's first commercial concentrating solar power plant was inaugurated today near the sunny southern Spanish city of Seville.

The 11 megawatt, MW, plant was inaugurated in the presence of the heads of the regional government of Andalusia and executives of the solar company Abengoa, whose parent company, Solucar, built the power plant.

The power plant in the municipality of Sanlucar la Mayor, 25 kilometers (15 miles) west of Seville, took more than four years to build, from July 1, 2001 to December 31, 2005.

Known as PS10, the project produces electricity with 624 large movable mirrors called heliostats.

Each of the mirrors has a surface measuring 120 square meters (1,290 square feet) that concentrates the Sun's rays to the top of a 115 meter (377 foot) high tower where a solar receiver and a steam turbine are located. The turbine drives a generator, producing electricity.

PS10 is the first of a set of solar electric power generation plants to be constructed in the same area that will total more than 300 MW by 2013. Power generation will be accomplished using a variety of technologies.

The first two power plants to be brought into operation at Sanlucar la Mayor are the PS10, the world's first tower technology solar thermoelectric power plant constructed for commercial operation, and Sevilla PV, the largest low concentration system photovoltaic plant in Europe.
solar plant

The EU's first commercial concentrating solar power tower near Seville, Spain (Photo courtesy Abengoa)
When completed in the year 2013, the Sanlucar la Mayor Solar Platform will produce enough energy to cover the consumption of some 180,000 homes, equivalent to the needs of the city of Seville, using the concentrating solar power plant and other technologies.

Partly financed with European Union funds, the entire project requires an investment of 1.2 billion euro. The investment required to build the concentrating solar power plant amounted to €35 million, with a contribution of €5 million from the EU's Fifth Framework Programme for research, awarded for the project's innovative approach.

"These new technologies give Europe a new option to combat climate change and increase energy security while strengthening the competitiveness of the European industrial sector and creating jobs and growth," said Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.

Concentrating solar power plants have few environmental impacts other than land use. They produce no environmental contaminants or greenhouse gases.

When complete, the Sanlucar la Mayor Solar Platform will prevent the emission of more than 600,000 metric tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. These emissions would have resulted from burning fossil fuels to supply electricity to the 180,000 homes that will be served by the Solar Platform.

The need for concentrating solar power technology like PS10 arises because solar radiation reaches the Earth’s surface with a density that is adequate for heating systems but not for an efficient thermodynamic cycle for electricity production, Piebalgs explains.

The potential contribution of concentrating solar power plants to a more sustainable energy system has still to be fully exploited.

The EU has been supporting the concentrating solar power sector for more than 10 years, spending some €25 million to research projects working to develop this technology.

Piebalgs says this contribution has had a multiplying effect by leveraging a large amount of additional private investment worth several hundred million euro, in a ratio of about €10 for each euro invested by the European Union research program.

Also today, the European Commission published a map of the solar power potential of Europe. The map is produced by the Photovoltaic Geographical Information System of the Joint Research Centre which also includes an interactive service allowing users to calculate the solar power potential of any location in Europe.

The information in the map shows that an identical solar system will generate twice as much energy in sunny areas of Europe, such as Malta and Southern Spain, than in areas such as Scotland or northern Scandinavia.

The interactive information service map allows very specific calculation of the amount of energy that can be generated in any given location in Europe and its neighboring regions. This calculation is based on knowledge of the Sun's energy, geographic distribution, the different terrain across Europe and detailed technological analysis of the available photovoltaic technologies.

The map shows that considerable potential exists in Europe for greater use of solar energy. The EU is seeking to increase the share of renewable energies in its consumption to 20 percent in 2020.

Abengoa now is open for business in the United States. The $3 billion diversified energy company responsible for the Sanlucar la Mayor solar platform has created Solucar Power, Inc., a new U.S. subsidiary that will handle market development in solar energy.

Solucar Power Inc. will respond to utility requests for electricity using concentrating solar power technologies.