How solar thermal electricity creates jobs and improves energy security in Europe (Estela´s Paper)

ESTELA releases its latest Position Paper: “Concentrating Solar Power on the Road to 2030: How solar thermal electricity improves energy security and creates jobs in Europe.

ESTELA welcomes the EC Communication on the Energy Union published on the 25th February 2015. This Framework Strategy presents an ambitious climate policy emphasising on energy security, commitment to being the world leader in renewable energy and a new electricity market design.

Solar Thermal Electricity (STE), also known as Concentrating Solar Power (CSP), has a unique set of distinct advantages:

  • Fostering new job creation, contribution to local economy
  • Disapatchability and other technical advantages
  • Contributing to EU’s energy security and grid integration of renewables
  • Enabling a higher share of renewables
  • Long lifespan of power plants (well beyond 35 years and more)
  • Competitiveness in short and medium term: expecting rapid cost deduction by 2020

In ESTELA’s latest Position Paper, we explained in details how Solar Thermal Electricity can help European industry maintain its global leadership and improve EU’s energy security and job creations by seizing the benefits of Solar Thermal electricity for Europe:

  • A domestic market (home market) is needed for the next 5-10 years;
  • A better coordination of support measures;
  • Improved grid infrastructures and regulatory framework are needed;
  • Neighbourhood development brings mutual benefits to Europe and its neighbouring countries, as well as a significant and cost-effective contribution to combat against climate change.

In short, all Europe will profit from STE’s ability to provide dispatchable energy and increase energy independence. In order to get the most out of Solar Thermal Electricity, an intensified coordination of energy, research, regional and development policies not only at EU level, but also at national level, is needed. Also, a sizeable market for STE in the MENA countries benefits both for the local and the EU economies. Therefore, ESTELA is committed to continue working with regulatory bodies and all stakeholders and help implement the EU’s strategies on the Energy Union to meet its objectives of being the number one for renewables in the world, bringing jobs and growth to Europe, the completion of the internal energy market and more efficient energy consumption in order to enhance energy security.

For more information: ESTELA.

Brenmiller Energy looks to keep solar power generators running at nigth

Brenmiller Energy says it has developed a new, more efficient way to store heat from the sun that could give a boost to the thermal solar power industry by enabling plants to run at full capacity night and day.

By next year company founder Avi Brenmiller said he will have a 1.5 megawatt (MW), 15-acre (6-hectare) site in the Negev desert connected to Israel’s national grid, and a number of 10 to 20-MW pilots abroad are expected to follow, which will produce electricity at a price which competes with power from fossil-fuelled plants.

“A couple of years from now, not later than that, we will be putting full-size commercial plants to work. Because the basic technology we use here is a bankable technology … I’m sure that banks will not hesitate to finance such projects,” he said.

Many have tried to find ways to keep solar thermal power generators running after dark, but current solutions have shortcomings and have not always proven cost-effective.

The direct generation of electricity by photovoltaic (PV) solar panels is a far more common way to convert solar energy than by using solar heat to fuel thermal power plants, which take up more space and are not suitable for small-scale applications such as residential homes.

But a row of parabolic mirrors now tracks the sun at Brenmiller’s research site in the searing Negev desert, concentrating the rays to generate the steam needed to drive a turbine for producing electricity.

It is a technique that has been used for years but in addition to immediately generating steam some of the solar heat is also conducted by a fluid into a novel storage system buried beneath the mirrors which operates at 550 degrees Celsius.

This store can then be tapped at night or on cloudy days to keep the steam supply to the turbines flowing night and day, said Avi Brenmiller, chief executive of Brenmiller Energy.

The innovation is in the cement-like medium that stores the heat, a technology that Brenmiller says is more efficient than other systems on the market, such as those using molten salt, which has severe price and operational drawbacks.

“We will have this technology at conventional fuel prices with the same availability around the clock. I think that’s the major breakthrough here,” he said from the control room of the project, which he called a working proof of concept.

Brenmiller was a co-founder and chief executive of Solel Solar, a producer of concentrated solar power fields which was bought by Siemens in 2009 for $418 million but subsequently closed by the German group last year.

He has already poured $20 million of his own money into the latest venture over the past two years.


Energy storage can be a key to bridging the gap between energy supply and demand across the globe, the International Energy Agency said in a report earlier this year.

The primary hurdle is reaching “grid parity”, or the point at which electricity generated from renewable energy sources costs the same as electricity produced by fossil-fuelled power plants. That is when, experts believe, environmentally friendly energy conversion can take off.

Grid parity has been achieved in some places with PV panels but while direct electrical energy storage is possible with batteries, they are still relatively expensive, use potentially toxic materials and cannot be applied on a large scale.

Meanwhile some thermal concentrated solar power (CSP) plants have introduced molten salt storage facilities that store excess heat for use in the night, like Torresol Energy’s Gemasolar plant in Spain, but while it works it cannot match the cost of burning fossil fuels and depends on subsidies.

There are also technical drawbacks to using molten salt. The salt stores the high temperatures in liquid form, but if the heat drops below about 220 degrees Celsius, it will freeze, potentially ruining parts of the system.

This is not an issue for Brenmiller, he said, as he uses a solid cement-like storage medium in a structure which is buried about two meters below the mirrors.

He would not give any details on the storage medium’s composition but said the system was similar to storage facilities under development called thermocline systems, which enable the heat to be conducted in, stored and conducted out again in a single tank, which is less costly than having to use two tanks to separate the hot and cold conducting fluids.

“In my understanding, there is no other technology like it in the world,” said Amit Mor, chief executive of Israel-based consulting and investment firm Eco Energy and a former energy adviser to the World Bank. “It can be very useful to developing countries and developed countries alike.”

An hour of sun produces enough energy to sustain three hours of equivalent electricity generation, Brenmiller said, and with every 24 hours of storage, 5 percent of the heat is lost.

It costs three times more to build than a conventional PV plant which can achieve grid parity during sunlight hours, but because it produces three times as much energy, the price of electricity is also at grid parity, he said.

In the United States and Israel, he expects electricity produced by the system to cost 12 cents per kilowatt hour, on a par with the average cost of grid electricity.

New published by Reuters

Abengoa closes USD 660 million project financing for Xina Solar One, 100 MW solar power plant in South Africa

Abengoa announced today that it has, with its partners the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), the Government Employees Pension Fund represented by the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) and Kaxu Community Trust, closed the non-recourse project financing for Xina Solar One.

The USD 660 million non-recourse project financing agreements combine financing from development financial institutions such as the African Development Bank, the International Finance Corporation, Industrial Development Corporation and the Development Bank of Southern Africa; and local investment banks such as Absa member of Barclays, Nedbank and Rand Merchant Bank, a division of FirstRand Bank Limited. Xina Solar One will supply clean electricity to Eskom, South Africa’s power utility, under the 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) signed in late 2014.

Loan proceeds will be used for the construction of the 100 MW solar thermal electricity (STE) power plant Xina Solar One. It features parabolic trough technology with a five-hour thermal energy storage system using molten salts that assists in meeting the evening peak demand. This plant will produce clean and dispatchable energy to serve more than 95,000 households and will prevent the emission of 348,000 tons of CO2 per year.

With a total investment of approximately USD 880 million, construction of Xina Solar One started in 2014. Job creation will peak at over 1,300 positions during the construction phase, generating 45 permanent jobs for plant operation and maintenance.

Xina Solar One will belong to a consortium, 40 % of which is controlled by Abengoa. Other members of the consortium are IDC, PIC, and KaXu Community Trust.

Xina Solar One will be located close to Pofadder, in the Northern Cape Province, next to KaXu Solar One, the first STE power plant in commercial operation in South Africa. These two 100 MW plants will jointly shape the largest solar platform in sub-Saharan Africa, helping South Africa meet its ongoing energy demands and serving clean and reliable electricity.

These two projects, along with Khi Solar One (50 MW), under advanced stage of construction, were awarded by the Department of Energy of South Africa under its world class Independent Power Producer Program, integrated in its strategy to introduce up to 17,800 MW of renewable energy by 2030 and reduce its dependence on fossil fuel.

Abengoa offers proven proprietary solar technologies (solar thermal and photovoltaic), innovating in the development of solar technology and, developing and operating solar plants. The company currently has a total installed capacity of 1,603 MW in commercial operation, 360 MW under construction and 320 MW in the pre-construction phase, distributed in 32 plants worldwide.

Information published on

Pathway to Solar Thermal for Coal-Fired Collinsville

Pathway to Solar Thermal for Coal-Fired Collinsville

The Australian Government, through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s (ARENA) Emerging Renewables Program, will invest in a feasibility study that is investigating the conversion of Collinsville Power Station into a hybrid gas/solar thermal plant.

The Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson AM MP, today announced the Australian Government will contribute $2.5 million towards a RATCH-Australia Corporation Limited initiated feasibility study.

The study, with a total cost of $5.6 million, will assess the viability of converting Queensland’s 180 MW coal-fired Collinsville Power Station to a 30 MW hybrid solar thermal/gas power station with the help of ARENA.

A key benefit of the project will be the production of knowledge that will help accelerate the deployment of concentrating solar thermal in Australia through hybrid projects.

“The results of the study will be made publically available in order to assist interested parties overcome the challenges of early deployment of concentrating solar thermal,” Minister Ferguson said.

“Such information will include the overall technical feasibility of converting thermal coal fired power stations to solar thermal plants, its costs, the solar yield, network connection and other issues.”

“RATCH is aiming to use, where possible, existing plant infrastructure, which would generate significant cost savings relative to the costs of constructing a new plant.

“The feasibility study will help other generators to assess the possibility of using solar thermal technologies at coal-fired plants.”

The University of Queensland will contribute to the feasibility study through a research program that investigates the potential early stage operation and any commissioning issues.

RATCH will examine the feasibility of using Novatec Solar’s Linear Fresnel Solar Thermal technology to generate steam to be used in a steam turbine at the Collinsville Power Station.

The Measure is due for completion in 2015.

Minister Ferguson also announced further funding, through ARENA, for three solar research projects. The funding will support:

  • the development of best practice community consultation guidelines to help in the construction of large-scale solar projects
  • the adaptation of a model that assesses the viability of concentrating solar power systems to suit Australian market conditions
  • an investigation into community owned solar business models to allow more people to be involved in renewable energy projects in the future.

Each project aims to improve the uptake of solar energy technologies in the future and forms a part of the Australian Government’s $17 billion commitment to the development and deployment of clean energy technologies.


Press release

Manuel Blanco appointed Director of the Australian Solar Thermal Research Initiative

Dr Manuel J Blanco today joins CSIRO as Director of the Australian Solar Thermal Research Initiative (ASTRI).

ASTRI is an A$87 million, eight year international collaboration transforming the energy industry in Australia by bringing down the cost of solar thermal, a unique energy technology that can create electricity, heat and fuels.

Dr Blanco, a world-renowned solar scientist with almost three decades of academic, research and development managerial experience, comes to ASTRI from Spain’s National Renewable Energy Centre (CENER), where he was Director of the Solar Thermal Energy Department.

Dr Blanco has made an invaluable contribution to the international solar thermal industry, including paving the way for the first commercial solar thermal system installed in Spain and chairing the International Energy Agency’s SolarPACES executive committee, the 20-country network for solar thermal collaboration.

“Australia has one of the best solar resources in the world. It is a natural fit for an international solar thermal research collaboration to use this resource and our expertise to make solar power the cheapest, cleanest energy source it can be.

“We will reduce the cost of solar thermal to just 12 cents a kilowatt hour by 2020 and provide zero-emission energy to people when they need it. It’s a technological leap but we will do it. We are working with the best in the world,” said Dr Blanco.

Concentrating solar thermal power uses mirrors to focus sunshine to generate heat, which can be used to power a turbine to create electricity. Concentrating solar thermal technologies can also be used to drive chemical reactions to produce solar derived products, such as fuels. CSIRO’s solar thermal tower in Newcastle, New South Wales is an example of a concentrating solar thermal technology.

ASTRI is led by CSIRO. Current partners include seven universities and the United States Department of Energy’s national laboratories. The initiative is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

Further information on Dr Manuel Blanco

Dr Blanco is the Chair of the Executive Committee of SolarPACES, the International Energy Agency Implementing Agreement on Solar Power and Chemical Energy Systems; he has been Director of the Plataforma Solar de Almeria, the largest European concentrating solar thermal power (CSTP) Research Facility; Principal Investigator of the European Union SOLGAS and SIREC projects – two large CSTP demonstration and technology development projects which paved the way to the first commercial CSTP tower systems installed in Spain; Adviser to the President of the Andalusian Energy Agency; Executive Secretary of SolarPACES; and Full Professor and Chair of the Engineering Department of the University of Texas at Brownsville.

Masen launches the prequalification process for the Ouarzazate CSP Next Program of 300 MW

Masen launches the prequalification process for the Ouarzazate CSP Next Program

Masen is currently implementing a five hundred megawatts (500MW) solar power complex located at Ouarzazate, Morocco. The first phase of such a complex consisting of the design, financing, construction, operation and maintenance of one CSP parabolic trough power plant with a capacity of one hundred and sixty megawatts (160 MW) and three hours of storage has been attributed on 24 September 2012 under an Independent Power Producer (“IPP”) scheme.

Masen now launches the request for qualification process to select potential sponsors (the “Applicants”) to develop the next CSP phase of the Ouarzazate solar power complex through IPP project(s) consisting of the design, financing, construction, operation and maintenance of one or more Thermal Solar Power Plant(s) with an aggregate capacity of approximately three hundred megawatts (300 MW).

The OZZ CSP Next Program is divided into two separate projects: (i) a CSP tower project with a contemplated capacity of around 100 MW and (ii) a CSP parabolic trough project with a contemplated capacity of around 200 MW. Storage is contemplated for both projects.
Masen invites interested companies and consortia to download the pre- qualification document at, starting from January 23, 2013.

The deadline to submit applications, in accordance with the pre- qualification document, is March 25, 2013, 10:00 AM GMT.

Source: press release distributed by Masen

New Direct Steam Generation facility by DLR commissioned at the PSA

New Direct Steam Generation facility by DLR commissioned at the PSA

At the Plataforma Solar de Almería in southern Spain, researchers from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) have put a test facility for solar thermal power plants into operation. In the power plant, steam for generating power is produced directly in receiver tubes in the parabolic troughs. This avoids the need for intermediate stages using thermal transfer media and also allows for higher operating temperatures. The new technology enables parabolic trough power generators to produce power more efficiently and cost-effectively.

Everything in one tube

In the test facility in Almería, parabolic mirrors reflect the Sun’s rays onto receiver tubes. These tubes absorb the solar radiation, convert it into thermal energy, and pass it on. What is special about this test facility is that the tubes contain water, instead of the more usual oil; the water is directly heated and turned into steam. The superheated steam generated in this way can be used to drive a turbine in a power generator. Researchers refer to this as a ‘once-through concept’. “The main challenges with this type of direct steam generator are the high operating pressure – approximately 110 bar – in the receiver tubes and the control of the entire process. But the advantages outweigh these; with the ‘once-through concept’, there is no longer a need for heat exchangers and many other additional components such as oil treatment facilities,” says project leader Fabian Feldhoff from the DLR Institute of Solar Research, describing the benefits of the new technology. “This enables a reduction in the cost of solar power generators. Furthermore, power generators using this technology can operate at higher temperatures, making the generation process more efficient.”

Using a 1000-metre-long collector array with a thermal output of three megawatts, researchers in the DUKE research project (Durchlaufkonzept – Entwicklung und Erprobung; Once-through Concept – Development and Testing) are attempting to demonstrate the ‘once-through concept’ on an industrial scale. The new test facility offers one-of-a-kind opportunities for research as well as for continuing to develop this technology.

Advantages of water as a thermal transfer medium

Parabolic trough power generators are currently the most proven solar thermal power generators. Almost every commercial facility constructed to date uses synthetic thermal oil in the receiver tubes of the mirror array. The disadvantage of such thermal oils is that they can only be heated to a maximum of 400 degrees Celsius, which gives rise to limitations in the level of efficiency that can be attained. The facility now being tested by DLR can operate at temperatures of up to 500 degrees Celsius using a new receiver design. Using water as the heat transfer medium has the additional advantage of being low-cost, and it is neither flammable nor harmful to the environment.

In facilities that use the ‘once-through concept’, the steam for the turbine is evaporated and superheated in one continuous process in the collector array. Previous commercially operated direct steam generation units work using the recirculation concept. With this method, the water flows through three areas in the solar array – the evaporation area where the steam is generated; the ‘steam drum’, where the liquid water and steam are separated; and the ‘superheating area’, where the steam is heated to even higher temperatures. Facilities of this type were preferred because they are easier to control. The ‘once-through concept’ now being developed and tested in Almería certainly presents greater challenges in terms of controlling the facility; however, the scientists believe that, overall, operation of the system will be more cost-effective while at the same time more efficient. Furthermore, facilities of this type are more easily scalable, as solar power generators can easily be expanded. This is particularly important for further cost reductions in the long term.

DUKE project description

The DUKE solar research project (Durchlaufkonzept – Entwicklung und Erprobung; Once-through Concept – Development and Testing) has been funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und Reaktorsicherheit; BMU) and is carried out together with industrial partners. The test facility is being operated at the Plataforma Solar de Almería (PSA) under an already-successful cooperation with the Spanish organisation CIEMAT (Centro de Investigaciones Energéticas, Medioambientales y Tecnológicas; Centre for Energy, Environment and Technology Research). The project is expected to run until April 2014.

The Plataforma Solar de Almería is a test centre for high-temperature concentrating solar technology. Since the very beginning, DLR has played a major role in its planning and construction, and has been making use of the facility with on-site scientific staff to conduct its solar technology testing and development work in close collaboration with its Spanish partner, CIEMAT, which owns and operates the facility.

Published at DLR’s website


Original source

Third bid submission date dalayed until August 19 for South Africa’s REIPPP

Virtual image of a CSP plant under construction in South Africa by Abengoa

South Africa’s Department of Energy (DoE) has announced the 3rd Bid Submission Date of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPP) will be delayed by three months from the initially scheduled May 7, 2013 to August 19, 2013.

According to DoE’s Spokeperson Ms Thandiwe Maimane statements regarding the rationale behind the decision, it builds on the lessons learnt from window 1 financial close, “the Department’s need to incorporate lessons from this Window (window 1) into the subsequent windows. Thus, it is necessary important to allocate more time for effective inclusion of the value adding changes.

DoE says the staff working in the REIPPP has received lots of questions from bidders requiring explanations of certain sections of the Request for Proposals (RfP). Thus, it is necessary to update the RfP and incorporate all the amendments made through briefing notes. This new RfP will simplify the process of preparing bids, especialy for first-time bidders.

Moreover, DoE expects ” this short postponement will allow potential bidders the opportunity to consider the updated RFP and ensure that they can address all necessary changes timeously”.

The process of registering for participation in Window 3 will be re-opened closer to the bid submission date to allow for further registration for this window. Bidders will have an opportunity to register new projects for Window 3.

“It is projected that the work involved in achieving the tasks stated above can only be completed around February 2013. The Department of Energy believes that publication of a revised RFP by February 2013, with the 19th August as the Bid Submission date, will give bidders sufficient time to finalise their bids for submission in line with the revised RFP.” finally said Ms Maimane.

Reproduced with permission from CSP World


Original source

SOLAR CONCENTRA releases “Identifying main lines of research in the Solar Thermal Electricity sector”

SOLAR CONCENTRA has unveiled the paper titled “Identificación de las Principales Líneas de Investigación en el Sector de la Electricidad Termosolar” (Identifying main lines of research in the Solar Thermal Electricity sector) made by the Technology Platform for Concentrating Solar Thermal Power jointly with AICIA (Association for Research and Industrial Cooperation of Andalusia) through the GTER (Thermodinamics and Renewable Energy Group). SOLAR CONCENTRA’s Working Group GT4 coordinated by Manuel Blanco, the Managing Council and the associated members have contributed to prepare the report.

The report aims to make an approach to identify the research lines in the STE sector. To achieve this, a survey has been carried out with two consecutive questionnaires to the members of SOLAR CONCENTRA to gauge their opinion. The results have been analyzed and shown on the document.

Moreover, a review of current international reports and studies about STE has also been carried out, from which the main lines in research have been identified and have been included in this report.

This is the first report before preparing the report “Proposal to prioritize research lines” for the sector. Thanks to this work, SOLAR CONCENTRA has achieved very relevant information to be applied to the second phase.

The Technology Platform for Concentrating Solar Thermal Power goes on working to prepare the Strategic Research Agenda for the sector, the primary objective for which it was created.

Please note the report is only available in Spanish

You are allowed to spread this report subject to acknowledgment of the original source

Abengoa consolidates its commitment to the american market with the creation of its new subsidiary, Abengoa US

Abengoa, the international company that applies innovative technology solutions for sustainable development in the energy and environment sectors, has announced the creation of its new American subsidiary, Abengoa US, which will be responsible for all its businesses in the country. This initiative will help to consolidate the company’s strong commitment to the US market.

Abengoa US has assets in excess of $5.8 billion, more than $1.7 billion in shareholders´equity, and its revenues account for approximately 20% of the company’s total sales.

The company currently coordinates its activities from three offices, strategically located in Washington D.C, St. Louis and Denver. It is also present through its projects and operations in twelve states across the country, in addition to its two R&D+i centers in Denver and St. Louis.

Abengoa’s subsidiary in the US, which is responsible for managing the company’s projects in the country as well as business development in the US market, generates employment for more than 4,000 people, including nearly 1,200 direct employees. These figures have grown by 17% annually in two years.

At present, Abengoa US is engaged in various landmark projects in the country, including Solana, the world’s largest solar plant using parabolic-trough solar-thermal technology based in the Arizona desert, which has up to six hours of electricity storage, and one of the first commercial second-generation bioethanol plants located in Hugoton, Kansas, which will come into operation at the end of this year.

Source: Abengoa press release