Environment

Gemasolar Concentrated Solar Power achieves key milestone - 24 hours of uninterrupted supply

Gemasolar CSP plant
Gemasolar CSP plant
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Work progress on the Gemasolar plant, September 2010
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Work progress on the Gemasolar plant, September 2010
(Image by: Torresol)
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(Image by: Torresol)
Gemasolar plant. Heliostats and tower view
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Gemasolar plant. Heliostats and tower view
Valle 1 and Valle 2 plants. Works progress, July 2010
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Valle 1 and Valle 2 plants. Works progress, July 2010
Gemasolar plant
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Gemasolar plant
Gemasolar plant
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Gemasolar plant
Molten-salt heat storage tank
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Molten-salt heat storage tank
Gemasolar CSP plant
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Gemasolar CSP plant
Gemasolar CSP plant
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Gemasolar CSP plant
Valle 1 and Valle 2 plants
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Valle 1 and Valle 2 plants
Work progress on the Gemasolar plant, June 2010
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Work progress on the Gemasolar plant, June 2010
Gemasolar plant Heliostat field
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Gemasolar plant Heliostat field
Gemasolar CSP plant
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Gemasolar CSP plant
Gemasolar CSP plant
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Gemasolar CSP plant
Gemasolar CSP plant
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Gemasolar CSP plant
Gemasolar CSP plant
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Gemasolar CSP plant

The Gemasolar Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plant near Seville, Spain, has achieved a full 24 hours of solar power production one month after starting commercial operation. The 19.9 MW plant uses a huge array of mirrors to heat a molten salt storage system in the central tower which is then used to run steam turbines, resulting in the ability to continue energy production after the sun goes down.

Built by Torresol Energy - a joint venture between energy company Masdar of Abu Dhabi and Spanish engineering firm SENER, - the Gemasolar plant opened last May in Fuentes de Andalucia. Its central tower is surrounded by 2,650 heliostats (mirrors) that stretch approximately 185 hectares. The mirrors concentrate the solar radiation at a ratio of 1000:1 and at the central receiver in the 140 m (450 ft) tower temperatures can exceed 500-degrees Centigrade (932°F). The molten salts (which are able to retain 95% of the radiation from the sun's spectrum) are then stored in specially designed tanks, where high temperatures can be maintained at a level to facilitate the generation of electricity through steam turbines even after dusk.

"Gemasolar achieved optimal performance in its systems in the last week of June. The high performance of the installations coincided with several days of excellent solar radiation which made it possible for the hot-salt storage tank to reach full capacity," said Diego Ramírez, Director of Production at Torresol Energy. "We're hoping that in the next few days our supply to the network will reach an average of 20 hours a day."

Gemasolar CSP plant
Gemasolar CSP plant

The has already started supplying electricity to 25,000 local homes and more of the plants are planned.

"Masdar is currently working on other solar power projects within the UAE including Shams One and Noor One projects, each with 100MW capacity," said Frank Wouters, Director of Masdar Power.

Source: Torresol.

34 comments
Todd Dunning
Here\'s the catch: At 19MW capacity, this plant generates about 1.5 percent of the power of an average nuclear installation... and that\'s assuming the sun shines 365 days a year. Not 50 percent as much...1.5% - even using the terrific molten salt storage system. 200 hectares is about a square mile footprint - for a 19MW plant. So if you can afford to cover 50 square miles with these plants, you can do as well as the avg nuke at 1200-1300MW. For California\'s 52,000 MW needs, solar power would consume 2,736 square miles of footprint with this technology; plus the materials and labor cost. The entire city of Los Angeles is about 500 square miles.
VoiceofReason
So Todd...what about cost....and include ALL costs of solar versus nuclear. For one thing, getting permits for a nuclear plant, at least in the U.S. is next to impossible. Three mile Island cleanup took 14 years at a cost of $1 Billion. I could build several of these plants which will never generate that kind of waste. Yes nuclear can produce more energy. So what. It cannot do it without risk to the environment. I also think these are in their infancy. Building them will spur the competition to make them more efficient as time goes on. I\'m not anti-nuke. Actually I agree with nuclear power, but to never invest in solar is dumb. We have 25,000 sq miles of the Mojave desert doing nothing. Might as well build a few to take the load off.
Carlos Grados
This is the beginning of something beautiful. People can always improve upon the design of something that works- we don\'t still drive Model T style cars anymore. The argument has been that the sun doesn\'t always shine...now it doesn\'t have to!
Slowburn
Solar suffers from low power density, but i would like to see something like that built on the roofs of a city. If we could take the green fascists out of the equation, nuclear power would be safer, and a lot cheaper.
Aussie_Renewable
So Todd, what do you think the footprint of a nuclear power station is-per MW? Now I\'m not just talking about the power station itself-to be fair you *have* to include the land used to mine the uranium-& the ponds to store the run-off-& the land needed to store the nuclear waste. I think you\'ll find that, when you make a fair comparison, the two match up very nicely....with nuclear being much more expensive. Also, this is just a starting point, as the efficiency improves, the MW per hectare will also improve. With nuclear power the maximum land-use efficiency has effectively been reached!
Mack McDowell
This plant is only part of the solution. Another part is getting rid of our aging buildings and appliances that are highly inefficient when compared to our current technologies and buildings. I live in an apartment that was built in the 70s, its in a pretty bad part of town and I use way more electricity than I should. The apartments need to be refurbed but I doubt it will ever happen due to the horrible management company in charge of them. My AC runs 24/7 in the summer (I am in texas... ). When the tempts get above 90 degrees the apartment actually gets warmer and somewhat uncomfortable even with the AC running. New power sources like this station are only part of the solution, old buildings with inefficient insulation/building techniques and appliances are the other part.
Adam Bradley
Absolutely not the only solution, but its part of it. Wasn\'t all that long ago that solar power night was the butt of a few jokes!
Aussie_Renewable
So to put it into context-a Coal-fired power station requires around 20 acres per MW of capacity, nuclear power requires around 10 acres per MW, & this facility requires 24 acres wer MW of capacity-so they are roughly comparable (though whether nuclear & coal includes the land use for fuel & waste disposal I\'m not sure). However, look at the picture-the mirrors are not so closely packed that you\'d necessarily have to give the land exclusively to power generation. Like Wind Turbines, you could have other things going on underneath & between the heliostats. As Voice has rightly pointed out, though, these power stations can easily be placed in areas that are no good for any other purpose-to further minimize their effective land-use footprint!
Aussie_Renewable
BTW, I don\'t like being labelled a Green Fascist just because I don\'t want a source of energy that creates waste that remains a threat over a multi-millenial time scale, which is extremely expensive (even with massive subsidies) & which also rely on a *finite* resource. I\'m all for keeping the power stations we already have, but we certainly shouldn\'t be building any more!
Slowburn
Aussie_Renewable--- No it hasn't. and you have to include the quarry for the sand to make the mirrors, Adam Bradley--- Not even this solar plant can power a rainy week. Why are they using a steam plant, sterling engines are for more efficient.