Belgium Solar Company Unveils New Generating System

A solar company in Belgium will construct a 50 megawatt solar power station using parabolic trough collectors.A solar company in Belgium will construct a 50 megawatt solar power station using parabolic trough collectors.

ANTWERPEN, Belgium, BE, 2001-06-14 [SolarAccess.com] A solar company in Belgium will construct a 50 megawatt solar power station using parabolic trough collectors. After several years of development, Solarmundo NV says it has refined the use of solar collector technology to create a high-performance power plant. The technology has been tested for several years at a 2,500 m2 pilot plant at Liege, and company officials say the plant can be located in sunny regions of the world, including Spain and Greece. The conceptual creator of the Solarmundo technology is Lievin Ven, the man who purchased the LUZ factory in Israel ten years ago. He says the collectors use the same idea as the solar plants in California. “For the new technology, however, I had to start again from zero, four years ago with new partners who shared my vision of a totally new technology, able to reduce cost price levels dramatically,” he explains. A 400 or 800 MW plant in Egypt could generate electricity at 4 eurocents per kWh, or 7.5 eurocents per kWh in a 50 MW facility. “We knew that our technology really broke the sound barrier when the first estimation came in below the cost price of the fuel for electric production,” he explains. “Solarmundo can be considered as the Ford T of the solar thermal industry.” The key components of the Liege plant were completed and tested at the Fraunhofer solar institute in Germany. The solar boiler was obtained from CAST, the academy for space technology in China. The company plans to mass produce a simplified solar field with an automated production of standard components, with local assembly of the solar field structure to be highly automated to lower the cost. The technology uses a large field of mirrors that focus direct sunlight onto a horizontal solar absorber tube. Temperatures of 500°C generate steam that is fed to a turbine to generate electricity. Instead of parabolic reflectors, the system uses less expensive flat mirrors and sunlight that does not directly strike the absorber is reflected onto the tube by a reflector mounted above it. This reduces the amount of mirror adjustment needed while distributing the temperature evenly around the circumference of the absorber. A wear-free bearing system that was developed in cooperation with Bayer allows maintenance-free mechanical tracking of the mirror surfaces. The specially coated 20 cm steel absorber tube is filled with water and steam, instead of oil, to reduce the danger of explosion and environmental concerns. “Simplifying the power plant engineering has made it possible to reduce the investment cost by over 50 percent compared with parabolic trough technology,” adds Solarmundo president Miguel Sureda. “This means the breakthrough for solar energy is just around the corner.” “Theoretically, only a small part of the land surface of Egypt would be enough to meet the world’s energy needs,” says Hansjörg Lerchenmüller of the Fraunhofer Institute. “More than 50 percent of solar power generated world-wide to date has come out of solar thermal power plants in California; in spite of this, the technology and its potential is quite unknown.” A recent study by the German Aerospace Centre predicts the share of generation from solar thermal systems could increase to 10 percent of the world’s total electricity by 2050. Solarmundo is seeking partners to construct a 50 MW solar station. “We hope to attract experienced industrial groups or energy utilities who see in this new technology an opportunity for their future markets,” says Sureda. “Solar thermal power plants are an ideal investment in the future in view of depleting energy reserves and the growing climate threats from burning fossil fuels.”

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