Solar-thermal company Solar Millennium expands into photovoltaics

Solar Millennium intends to generate synergy effects by building not only parabolic trough power plants, but also applying other technologies for the use of solar energy in major power plants around the world in the future. The company will apply photovoltaics (purchased from market partners) to generate additional energy from power plant surfaces, surrounding terrain, etc.

May 19, 2011 — Solar Millennium AG (ISIN DE0007218406) CEO Dr. Christoph Wolff said that Solar Millennium intends to generate synergy effects by building not only parabolic trough power plants, but also applying other technologies for the use of solar energy in major power plants around the world in the future. The company will apply photovoltaics (purchased from market partners) to generate additional energy from power plant surfaces, surrounding terrain, etc.

While Solar Millennium specializes in parabolic trough power plants, it will now use other technologies, such as solar tower power plants, in the medium to long term. Solar Millennium began establishing its own research and development team last year aimed at the marketable development of solar tower power plants. The company is pursuing the use of photovoltaics, especially in combination with parabolic trough plants, to utilize power plant surfaces for energy production.

On surfaces less suitable for solar-thermal power plants due to their composition or lack in size, Solar Millennium wants to turn to photovoltaics in the future, above all as a supplement to parabolic trough plants for the commercial use of uneven terrain or border areas of the project locations. Depending on the project, the company plans to cooperate with experienced photovoltaic partners; the cells are to be purchased on the global market.

The essence of the brand and the focus of activities will remain on solar-thermal power plants, in particular those based on the parabolic trough technology. Photovoltaics are to be additionally used in individual projects, leveraging the company’s project development and financing, as well as construction, solar data measurement, and approval process capabilities. Project locations not suitable for one type of technology due to their size, qualities or other general conditions can still be used by Solar Millennium by applying other technologies to generate solar power, noted Wolff.

Solar-thermal power plants generate electricity by converting solar radiation into heat energy. In a parabolic trough power plant, trough-shaped mirrors concentrate the incidental radiation onto a pipe in the focal line of the collector. Its absorption heats a fluid heat medium in the pipe, generating steam in the power block through a heat exchanger. As in conventional power plants, the steam powers a turbine to generate electricity. By integrating thermal storage, electricity can be supplied on demand, even after sunset.

In the case of solar towers, several sun-tracking biaxial mirrors — heliostats — concentrate the solar radiation onto a central receiver at the top of a tower. How the various technologies are used in the future will depend on the purpose, the characteristics of the location, and the general conditions of each respective market.

Solar Millennium AG, Erlangen, (ISIN DE0007218406) is an international company in the renewable energy sector, with its main focus on solar-thermal power plants.

Also read: CSP vs PV: Is solar thermal gaining on photovoltaics?

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