Utility-scale Solar Power

‘The technological breakthroughs we have acheived coupled with our expertise, has enabled us to take a qualitative leap forward in our power tower technology.’


Santiago Seage, CEO of Abengoa Solar

Abengoa Solar: Equipment suppliers, plant constructors and operators

This technology company is over 25 years old, and has secured a number of CSP development contracts over the past year.

Abengoa Solar started in 1984 when it began building and supplying equipment for the Solar Platform in Almeria, Spain. Today, it is involved in the building of solar plants in Spain, as well as America and Africa. It has a commercial presence in 70 countries.

Its Solnova CSP complex, at Sanlúcar la Mayor in Spain, which is currently under construction, will supply 300 MW by 2013. The construction of Solnova 4 began in 2008.

In September 2009 Abengola Solar was selected by Excel energy, a Colorado-based utility company, to build a parabolic trough CSP plant at its Cameo coal plant in Colorado, US. This plant will be the first of its kind to integrate an industrial solar installation with a conventional power plant.

Also in that month, the company opened its PS20 power plant at the Solúcar Platform in Sanlúcar la Mayor, Seville. It has a 20 MW capacity and the Solúcar Platform will also house a research centre for both photovoltaic and CSP technologies.

Abengoa is also currently planning its second concentrating solar power plant in the town of Logrosán, Spain. This 50 MW parabolic trough technology plant is due to go into operation in mid-2011. In October 2009 the company also signed a 250 MW power purchase agreement with Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) for the output from the Mojave Solar Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) plant between Barstow and Kramer Junction in California. It is due to begin commercial operations in 2013.

Acciona‘Nevada Solar One is a major milestone in solar thermal electric technology, one that is sufficiently developed to produce energy in large quantities.’

José Manuel Entrecanales, president and CEO of Acciona

Acciona Solar Power: Plant developers and constructors

This company was the main supplier of parabolic trough technology for the Nevada Solar One project.

Spanish company Acciona Solar is a joint venture between Acciona Energy, which owns a 55% stake, and Solargenix, which owns a 45% stake. They have been present in Spain since the 1980s, but their most ambitious project has been abroad. Acciona is the majority stakeholder in the Nevada Solar One facility.

Nevada Solar One has a maximum capacity of 27 MW and can produce 134 GWh annually. Acciona purchased its 55% stake from Solargenix in 2006 at a cost of US$220 million, and it now owns a 97.7% share in the project, which has been in operation since 2007.

The company opened its first CSP plant in Extremadura, Spain, in July 2009. The 50 MW project, Alvardoro I, represents an investment of €236 million and also uses parabolic trough technology.

Acciona has also secured planning permission for three other CSP plants in Spain which are currently under construction. It is hoped the three new plants, one in Majadas de Tiétar (Cáceres) and two in Palma del Río (Cordoba), will enter service at the end of 2010 and will provide 300–400 jobs during the construction phase.

In October 2008 Acciona was selected by the US Army to develop a large-scale CSP and PV project to be located at Fort Irwin in the Mojave Desert, California. A memorandum of understanding was signed between the company, the US Army and Clark Energy Group. The joint project will develop approximately 500 MW of solar power, a figure which could be increased to 1000 MW eventually. It is expected the first stage of construction will be completed by 2014.

Solar Millenium‘The merger of our technology and parabolic trough power plant construction know-how will allow us to benefit from synergy effects and to reduce costs.’

Christian Beltle, CEO of Solar Millennium

Man Solar Millenium: CSP project developers

Active in Europe, this venture recently announced plans for the US.

MAN Solar Millennium is the 50:50 joint venture between MAN Ferrostaal and Solar Millennium. The companies are involved in project development, turnkey construction and the financing of large-scale solar thermal power plants. The venture has around 50 staff and was founded in May 2007.

Solar Millennium offers its parabolic trough technology and MAN Ferrostaal develops international projects for the venture.

In September 2009, Solar Millennium announced it is increasing its share in MAN Solar Millennium from 50% to 74.9%, by providing its previously fully-owned parabolic trough technology subsidiary Flagsol to this company as a contribution in kind. MAN Solar Millennium and Flagsol will be amalgamated into one company within the next six months. The new company will operate as Flagsol GmbH.

From August 2009, all activities in the US market will be through a new joint venture, the Solar Trust of America LLC. Through affiliated companies, Solar Millennium has a majority share in this company, while a minority share is owned by MAN Ferrostaal as part of MAN Solar Millenium’s plans to increase their presence on the American market.

CSP Services‘We act as consultants and provide technical expertise. Not many people have followed the developments of this technology as closely as we have.’

Dr Eckhard Lüpfert, Managing director and founder, CSP Services.

CSP Services: Consultancy and training

This DLR spin-off company offers consultancy services to investors in CSP.

CSP Services is an engineering and consultancy company which specifically monitors developments in CSP technologies and offers consultancy to companies regarding how to optimize use of the technology.

It is a spin-off from the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), the technologies of which are offered, sometimes exclusively, by CSP Services to its clients. These mainly include developers, operators and owners of solar thermal power plants. The company was set up by DLR colleagues Dr Eckhard Lüpfert, Dr Steffen Ulmer and Dr Klaus Pottler in September 2007.

Lüpfert said: ‘There is very little confusion about what is DLR and what is CSP Services: Research, development and collaboration with strategic partners remain the domain of the DLR. Consultancy, client training and everything to do with construction sites – i.e. typical engineering tasks are taken care of by CSP Services.’

They also produce and provide measurement technologies for evaluating performance of solar collectors on-site. Used to optimise mirror position, the company says this can improve output by 10%–15%. CSP Services also run client training workshops and forecast yields.

The company started with an office in Cologne, but is now based near the Plataforma Solar de Almeria, Spain, on the basis that many of the company’s clients are based in the region. CSP Services currently employs 11 people.

Iberdrola‘Iberdrola has a strategy that ensures sustainable growth and a solid balance sheet.’

Ignacio Galan, Chairman, Iberdrola

Iberdrola Renovables: Plant Developers, constructors and operators

Iberdrola Renovables is already one of Europe’s largest generators of renewable energy, now it has moved into the CSP sector.

Iberdrola is one of the world’s largest utility companies and is a key player in the global renewable energy sector. The company which runs its renewable energy division, Iberdrola Renovables, is a wholly-owned subsidiary. It produces a large amount of wind power, but also produces solar power, including CSP.

The company launched its first solar thermal power plant in Puertollano, Spain, with an installed capacity of 50 MW. It is 90% owned by Iberdrola Renovables and 10% by the Spanish Institute for Energy Diversification and Saving (IDAE). The IDAE is sponsored by the Spanish government and collaborates with the European Commission to aid Spanish companies to obtain funds for renewable energy programmes. The total investment in the plant is about €200 million.

The plant, which started construction work in March 2007, opened in May 2009 and is expected to produce more than 100 GWh per year. The facility has a solar collection area of nearly 290,000 m2 and consists of 352 parabolic trough-type collectors. According to the company, it projects that 11 plants will be built on the site in total, each with a 50 MW capacity.

In its latest reported results, for the first nine months of 2009, Iberdrola’s net profit was down 18% at €2.03 billion, though revenue rose 11.1% to €19,785.7 million, gross margin fell by 7.5% to €7942.4 million, while net operating profit declined 1.4% to €3269.7 million, according to the company in October 2009.

Iberdrola’s renewable energy subsidiary reports that it expects to achieve 10,750 MW of installed capacity by the close of 2009 and 12,500 MW at the end of 2010.

Iberdrola curently has 2500 employees across 25 countries.

DLR‘(DLR is a) leading international developer of solar thermal power plant technologies.’

Dr Hans Muller-Steinhagen, head of DLR Institute of Technical Thermodynamics

DLR (German Aerospace Centre): Research and Technology developer

The DLR has been at the forefront of research into CSP technologies.

The DLR is the German national centre for aerospace, energy and transportation research and as part of its work aims to support the industry, develop operations for cost reduction of solar power systems and carry out research.

The DLR’s Institute of Technical Thermodynamics operates a 25 kW solar furnace and further solar test facilities in Cologne. These test facilities include laboratories and simulation tools which are used specifically for solar thermal research, as well as a 60 kW Xenon lamp facility.

Current research aims include developing thermal storage technologies for CSP, developing procedures for detailed component performance measurement, and looking at solar processes for the generation and refinement of fuels, for the production of materials by high temperature processes, solar water treatment and solar synthesis of chemicals.

Much of their research considers the efficient use of solar generated heat. The group also works on economic feasibility studies and, for example, Desertec plans, which are epected to rely heavily on CSP, are based on DLR studies. Specifically, their three satellite data-supported studies, which investigated the potential for development of CSP technology in 50 countries across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. The DLR technical thermodynamics department has more than 80 employees. Over 50% of capital is gained through third party funding.


Schott solar‘Solar energy offers one of the most important alternatives for securing the power supply of the future.’

Dr Martin Heming, Managing Director, Schott Solar

Schott Solar: Solar Receiver supplier

This company has emerged as one of the world’s leading suppliers of receivers for parabolic trough technology.

Schott Solar is a fully-owned subsidiary of Germany-based Schott AG. The company has over 50 years experience in CSP, and has manufactured solar receivers since the 1980s. In October 2008 the company announced it had received orders for 65,000 receivers in the US and the Middle East, and an order for 80,000 receivers for a Spanish customer, which was the largest order to date in the CSP sector, according to the company.

The company’s most recent development, the Schott PTR®70 receiver has a new type of anti-reflection coating, which the company reports, allows the transmission of more than 96% of the sun’s radiation.

In September 2009 Schott Solar announced plans to increase their presence in the US market. This followed the opening of their third US receiver plant in Alberquerque, New Mexico, which began production in July 2009. The Alberquerque production plant, which is the world’s first production site for utility-scale CSP receivers and PV modules, represents a $100 million investment by the company and currently has 350 employees. It is expected annual production at this plant will reach 85 MW.

Outside the US, Schott Solar also has receiver production facilities in Germany, the Czech Republic and Spain. The CSP division of Schott Solar plans to achieve a production capacity of 1 GW of electrical output by the end of 2009.

Ausra‘Our philosophy is that you need to drive down the cost of the system in order for it to be economically competitive’

Robert E. Fishman, Chairman and CEO, Ausra

Ausra Inc.: Solar thermal plant equipment supplier

Focused on economics over outright efficiency, this company’s emphasis is on getting the cost of solar thermal equipment down.

Australia-based Ausra originally launched as a project developer but, in January 2009, switched its focus to selling CSP equipment. In April 2009 the company said it closed on US$25 million in equity funding from its existing investors for its new business focus and it followed this up in October 2009, by securing a further $60.6 million in investor funding.

Since the beginning of 2009, Ausra says it has significantly advanced its technology at its Kimberlina power plant, in California, USA, a facility which also serves as a testing and demonstration facility for the company’s solar steam generators. Ausra also operates a solar thermal research and demonstration power plant in Bakersfield, California. Furthermore, the company is seeking planning permission for a 177 MW solar thermal plant in California.

Also in 2009, the company announced plans to retrofit a 750 MW coal-fired power station in Queensland, Australia, with its new CSP technology to increase electrical output while keeping carbon emissions down.

Most recently, in September 2009, Ausra secured a contract to supply solar steam boilers for the proposed 100 MW solar thermal/fossil-fired hybrid plant, JOAN1, currently under development in Ma’an, Jordan. The project is expected to begin operations in 2013.

SolarPaces‘CSP is in a very dynamic phase now. Increasing numbers of projects are in construction and operation and it is going to play a major role among renewables.’

Dr Christoph Richter, Executive Secretary, SolarPaces

SolarPaces: Technology, economics, policy and research

With over 30 years of experience, this consortium offers CSP expertise to government and industry.

This worldwide cooperative network brings together international teams of CSP experts in order to develop and market CSP systems. SolarPaces was set up in 1977 and is part of the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Member countries work together on activities known as ‘tasks’ aimed at solving the wide range of technical problems associated with commercialization of concentrating solar thermal power technology, including large-scale system tests and the development of advanced technologies, components, instrumentation, and analysis techniques.

The teams run system tests of pilot-scale plants which are used to demonstrate the performance and reliability data needed to predict commercial plant performance. Similarly, research on systems operation and maintenance has led to reduced costs, most notably at the commercial Kramer Junction parabolic trough plant in California’s Mojave Desert, which has five solar fields with 33 MW of capacity.

One of the SolarPaces tasks undertaken in the United States has been to outline and define the policy needed to implement 3000 MW of new CSP in California by 2015. Other high solar states, including New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada, have similar schemes, which are being overseen by SolarPaces.

The group is currently focusing its efforts on developing standardisation procedures for components of CSP plants. Further research activities focus on solar fuels, for example solar-generated hydrogen, solar resource assessment and clean water production.

Siemens‘After the rapid and highly sucessful expansion of our wind power business, we now want to continue this success story in the solar sector.’

Peter Loscher, President and CEO, Siemens

Siemens solel: component supplier

The acqusition of Solel by Siemens in October 2009 marked a strategic shift by the company as it moved into the CSP sector.

Siemens acquired Israel-based Solel Solar Systems for US$418 million in October 2009, significantly strengthening its position in the CSP market.

Siemens is the world leader for the solar thermal power plant steam turbine production with over 80% market share. Meanwhile, Solel is one of the world’s two leading suppliers of solar receivers. It produces solar troughs and is involved in the manufacture and installation of solar fields for large-scale solar energy production. The company was set up in 1992 by former Luz International staff, after Luz went bankrupt.

In 2009, Siemens Energy was awarded an order to supply the largest ever, fully solar-powered steam turbine-generator set for the first commercial solar tower power plant project to break ground in the US. The 123 MW unit will be operated at BrightSource’s Ivanpah Solar Complex in Southern California’s Mojave Desert. Siemens will supply a reheat SST-900 industrial steam turbine for the project. The turbine and the generator are scheduled to be delivered in early 2011 and commercial operations are expected to begin in 2012.

The acquisition of Solel means Siemens will take on 400 staff at the company’s Beit Shemesh, Israel, headquarters and 100 at their west coast US subsidiary. Solel commenced manufacturing in Spain in 2006, and have supplied technology to 15 solar thermal power plants, with a combined capacity of 750 MW. Total investment by Solel in manufacturing plants in Spain is expected to reach $140 million in 2009.

In the first six months of 2009 Solel posted revenues of $90 million, more than doubling the $40 million it posted in 2008. In contrast, Siemens’ environmental portfolio posted revenue of nearly $19 billion in 2008.

Solel is currently developing the 553 MW Mojave Solar Park 1 (MSP-1), the world’s largest solar thermal power plant, in the Mojave Desert and in February 2009 announced it had begun construction on a 50 MW solar field in Lebrija, Spain, featuring the company’s SunField LP technology and equipment. The Lebrija project has an overall cost of some $400 million, and is being developed in partnership with Valoriza Energia, a subsidiary of Sacyr Vallehermoso, a construction company based in Madrid. The project is expected to become operational in 2010.

Siemens became a member of the Desertec Industrial Initiative in May 2009, a project which is expected to cause significant expansion in the CSP market, see box panel opposite.

Hannah Flynn is production editor of Renewable Energy World Magazine.

Sidebar: Desertec: CSP for Europe from the MENA Nations

Launched in May 2009, the Desertec Industrial Initiative (DII) aims to use renewable resources in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) to meet up to 15% of Europe’s energy needs by 2050. CSP is likely to be one of the main technologies used to achieve this.

The DII planning entity was established on 31 October, 2009 and participating companies include: ABB, Abengoa Solar, Cevital, Deutsche Bank, E.ON, HSH Nordbank, MAN Solar Millennium, Munich Re, M+W Zander, RWE, Schott Solar and Siemens. It is expected that implementing the plan will take up to 20 years, but the estimated costs of producing and transporting CSP generated power between 2020-2030 will be lower than that of the conventional technologies in Europe.

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