Educating and leading Europe for solar thermal power potential
In the last issue of IRJ, we touched on a very special association which, through continual dialogue with the European Union, is shaping the future for solar thermal electricity in Europe. This association is none other than ESTELA, the European Solar Thermal Electricity Association.
Founded in 2007 following the emergence of the solar thermal electricity industry, ESTELA members today are committed to making sure solar thermal plays its part in the lead up to the 2020 renewable targets. Its involvement in the Solar Thermal Initiative of the EU Strategic Plan, contribution to the Mediterranean Solar Plan and development of the CSP Roadmap are just a few of the high profile solar thermal plans which the association is instrumental in furthering today.
ESTELA believes that the growth of solar thermal may be attributed to the technical and economical success of the first projects executed, and the “stable green pricing or support mechanisms to bridge the initial gap in the electricity costs by e.g. feed-in tariffs.”
The association says that future growth depends on research and development to enhance potential for technical improvement, and related cost reduction. The commercial realization of solar thermal projects will be key to the power source’s contribution to 2020 targets, and insight may be gained by looking more closely at the ESTELA-backed projects which have already proved successful, and the ways in which this association supports a cause.
Andasol 1 and 2, then Extresol 1
Owned by ACS Cobra of Spain, and Solar Millennium AG of Germany, the Andasol -1 and Andasol -2 plants in Granada, Spain, are the first commercial parabolic trough solar thermal power plants in Europe. Each has a capacity of 49.9 mega watts and a revolutionary 7.5 hour thermal storage system which will create a gross electricity output of 360 gigawatts per hour.
ACS developed these plants with SENER Ingeniería y Sistemas S.A, of Spain. Andasol -1 came into commercial production in March, 2009, and is capable of supplying electricity for up to 200,000 people. Andasol -1 cost approximately US$380 million to build, and exemplifies ESTELA’s mention of stabilising green pricing to bridge that gap between electricity costs for the early stages of such projects. Solar thermal electricity in Spain is set at a feed-in tariff of a little under €0.27 per Kilowatt for the next 25 years.
The peak in the Spanish electricity grid demands in summer, caused in large part by air conditioning units, is being aided by the Andasol plants because the electricity they supply during the heat of the day correlates with the time it is most needed within the grid.
ACS Cobra’s Extresol -1 solar thermal plant, located in Torre de Miguel Sesmero, Spain, joined the Spanish grid with 50 mega watts at the tail-end of 2009.
“As its predecessors Andasol 1 and 2, Extresol 1 has a 7.5-hour molten salts storage which allows wide dispatchability possibilities to adapt its operation to the grid demand,” ESTELA says.
Through these plants, ACS Cobra is proving the potential for commercial realisation of solar thermal electricity in accordance with ESTELA’s aim to integrate this power source and show what it is capable of contributing to the 2020 renewable targets.
Concentrated Solar Power (CSP)
One of ESTELA’s principle causes is the promotion, development and furtherance of understanding and creation of Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) facilities.
CSP’s produce heat (electricity) by concentrating the sun’s rays to temperatures between approximately 400 and 1000 degrees. This is done using hundreds of mirrors in various shapes and methods for sun-tracking involved. Today, CSP plants are typically between 50 and 280 megawatts, however, there is great potential to develop larger facilities in the future.
These CSP systems can be integrated to work with storage systems or in hybrid partnerships with fossil fuels to offer set capacity and power which may be dispatched as and when it is needed.
According to ESTELA’s Concentrating Solar Power guide, written in partnership with Greenpeace and IEA SolarPACES, CSP installations provided only 436 megawatts of worldwide electricity generation in 2008. 1,000 megawatts of projects are planned, mostly in Spain, for completion in 2011, and the United States has planned 7,000 megawatts of projects for completion by 2017.
“According to the Global CSP Outlook 2009, under an advanced industry development scenario with high levels of energy efficiency, CSP could meet up to 7 per cent of the world’s projected power needs in 2030 and a full quarter by 2050,” the guide states.
“Even with a set of moderate assumptions for future market development, the world would have a combined solar power capacity of over 830 GW by 2050, with annual deployments of 41 GW. This would represent 3.0 to 3.6 per cent of global demand in 2030 and 8.5 to 11.8 per cent in 2050.”