solar thermal electric

Spain takes over from US as largest solar thermal electric producer in world

Spain has become the leading producer of solar thermal electric energy, after the Florida solar plant in Alvarado (Badajoz), belonging to Renovables Samca, was connected to the grid this month. Spain has taken over top spot from the US with 432 MW of installed power.

Renovables Samca’s majority shareholder is the Samca Group, an Aragon-based industrial group with extensive experience in the energy sector among others. The group also counts on Sociedad de Promoción y Participación Empresarial Caja de Madrid, a subsidiary of the leading Spanish savings bank Caja Madrid, as a financial partner.

Thanks to this new plant, Spain now boasts 11 plants in operation and a further 20 at an advanced stage of construction. According to the trade association Protermosolar, this represents 432 MW of installed solar thermal electric power, compared to 422 MW in the US, “putting the Mediterranean country in first place, not only in terms of technological development but also by output”.

The Florida plant employs new parabolic trough technology developed by the Samca Group, which includes a molten salt thermal storage system. The plant has a nameplate capacity of 50 MW and also represents a milestone in the sector's development as its solar field – with a collector area of 550,000 square metres – is the largest of all plants in operation, both in Spain and elsewhere.

Thus, the map of installed solar thermal electric power in Spain is as follows: PS10 (11 MW), PS 20 (20 MW), Andasol 1 (50 MW), Puertollano (50 MW), Puerto Errado (1.4 MW), La Risca (50 MW), Andasol 2 (50 MW), Solnova 1 (50 MW), Extresol 1 (50 MW), Solnova 3 (50 MW) and Florida (50 MW).

Besides these plants, more are already under construction, and in less than one year Spain may benefit from around 600 MW of additional grid-connected power. The number of plants included in the Register of preliminary assignment of remuneration will achieve an output close to 2,500 MW by 2013.

Meanwhile, the US has the SEGS plants (354 MW), Acciona's Nevada Solar 1 plant (60 MW), and the Kimberlina (5 MW), Lancaster (5 MW) and Maricopa (1.5 MW) plants.

The investment made by companies to roll out solar thermal electric capacity in Spain now totals approximately €2.5 billion, which will rise to an accumulated amount of around €15 billion by 2013. By then, a total of 60 solar thermal electric plants using a range of technologies and of varying sizes will be on line.

Spain is presently a world leader in this technology, and companies linked to these solar thermal electric plants are beginning to participate in ambitious projects in many regions of the world (US, North Africa, Middle East, China, India, Australia, etc.). This leadership has been achieved through extensive R& D in the sector, which has been ongoing since the late 70s, and endures to this day.

In addition, this expansion of solar thermal electric capacity within and outside Spain is contributing to the image of renewables in general, thanks to one of its main strengths, its managability through storage. This managability is essential to ensuring the stability of the Spanish power system, since it enables solar plants to respond to fluctuations in energy demand, producing energy even when there is no sun, or storing it when it is not in demand.

Protermosolar is the association that represents the Spanish solar thermal electric sector and currently comprises 100 members. According to Protermosolar, solar thermal electric technology, in which Spain is a leading nation, has recently made a strong impact on the energy mix and "is currently the technology with the greatest growth potential". With a planned installed capacity of 2,500 MW by 2013, the sector's objective is to break the 10,000 MW mark in 2020.

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Renovables Samca



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