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Gemasolar Thermosolar Plant

The new Gemasolar Power Plant near Seville in southern Spain is the worlds first solar plant to have the capacity to generate electricity even at night. More than 2600 concentrically arranged mirrors spread across 185 hectares of rural land concentrate solar energy towards a centrally located molten nitrate salt tank. As the rays converge, they super-heat the salt to over 900C, causing water around the tank to boil and drive steam turbines. In addition, any superfluous heat generated during the day is stored within the liquefied salt. It acts like a giant thermal battery for driving the turbines at night and during overcast days up to 15 hours at a time with no sunlight. But Seville, being one of the sunniest areas in Europe, this doesnt happen very often.

The $US410 million Gemasolar plant that just opened has a potential output of 20 megawatts, though it is currently operating below that capacity. Officials expect it could reach 70 per cent capacity by 2012. Its the largest solar power station of its type in Europe, and it has an annual production total or roughly 110 GWh/year enough to power 25,000 homes and reduce atmospheric CO2 emissions by more than 30,000 tons a year. The project, a joint venture between Abu Dhabu energy company Masdar and Spanish engineering firm SENER called Torresol Energy, took two years to construct at a cost of 260million.

The commissioning of the CSP plant marks another key milestone in the development and deployment of solar energy in Europe. It also highlights Masdars commitment to partner with global industry leaders such as SENER and bring clean technology closer to the community Frank Wouters, Director of Masdar Power told press. The on-schedule and on-budget completion of the construction and commissioning of the Gemasolar plant is a milestone for SENER. Currently, SENER is the only company in the world that has developed and built a commercial plant with central tower molten salt receiver technology that has already started operation, says Miguel Domingo, Solar Business Director of SENER. Gemasolar is a revolution in the CSP sector, as the standardization of this new technology will mean a real reduction in the investment costs for solar plants. The commercial operation of this plant will lead the way for other central tower plants with molten salt receiver technology, an efficient system that improves the dispatchability of electric power from renewable sources, says Enrique Sendagorta, Chairman of Torresol Energy. Gemasolar is the worlds first commercial-scale CSP plant, with central tower technology and dispatchable thermal storage power. The project is now up and running, supplying 25,000 homes in the Andaluca region of Spain, and it is expected to reach its nameplate capacity, saving 30,000 tonnes of CO2 emission a year.