The Ministry of Energy kickstarts CSP industry in Chile this week with the bidding presentations for the construction of the first CSP plant in Latin America.
The prices of solar thermal electricity generation (CSP) have been greatly reduced since the bidding on Ouarzazate (Morocco).
Today, Thursday February 28th is the official date on which the Chilean Ministry of Energy and CORFO publicly present the international bidding process for the construction of the first CSP power plant in Latin America.
This announcement comes one year after the announcement of the National Energy Strategy, by Chilean President Sebastián Piñera.
The Chilean Government has worked intensely in recent months to ensure the adequate conditions are in place to make CSP a competitive technology in Chile. The soft-financing loans, grants, and public land in the Norte Grande, which the government will provide, combined with the dramatic drop in CSP prices in recent months, will contribute to bring Chile to the head of solar technologies in Latin America.
The bidding for the 160MW solar thermal plant in Ouarzazate (Morocco), the first stand-alone solar thermal energy project in North Africa and the first competitive tender process for the construction and operation of a solar power plant in the world, has evidenced a great cost reduction in the solar thermal industry. The winning consortium formed by ACWA Power International, Aries Ingeniería y Sistemas, and TSK presented the most competitive offer (190 USD/MWh), 28% lower than the second best bid. For the principal member of the consortium, ACWA Power, a leading Saudi IPP, the Ouarzazate project represents its entry into the solar thermal industry, being technically advised by the Spanish engineering firm Aries.
Various factors that have contributed to the competitive pricing of CSP technology:
– Profound knowledge of the solar thermal industry: The experience of Aries, both in engineering plant design and optimization of electricity production, as well as in the knowledge of solar thermal actors, has been instrumental in the price realized in Ouarzazate.
– Economies of scale: a 160MW plant, as in the case of Ouarzazate, compared to the "standard" 50MW thermal plant dominant in Spain, has to a large degree lowered the final price of electricity.
– Clear commitment to innovation in new technologies: from the design of the first plants in the 1980s, the solar thermal industry has made notable advancements along the learning curve, thanks to the development of new technologies. An example of the innovative nature of this industry is the HITECO project, (New solar collector concept for high temperature operations in CSP applications), a part of the 7th Framework Programme of the European Commission, which aims to overcome current limitations in the technology, redefining concepts and seeking flexibility in operating plants. The HITECO consortium brings together industrial partners and research centers from Spain, Germany, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic, which is coordinated by Aries Ingeniería y Sistemas. HITECO is developing a new concept, aimed at increasing the efficiency of parabolic devices, among other things, because the heat transfer fluid surpasses the current operating temperature of 400°C, which in turn is applicable for use with any heat transfer fluid. This increase in temperature to 600°C, improves the overall performance of the cycle and therefore the energy efficiency of plants with parabolic troughs.
Ouarzazate is a milestone for countries seeking to increase the percentage of renewable energies in their energy matrix, but have not yet opted for compensation mechanisms for the development of the same. This is the case of Chile, which has figured that the price of electricity from a solar thermal project would be lower than in Ouarzazate, since Chile has the world’s best solar radiation. In Chile, the declining prices of solar generation could make manageable renewable energies, able to respond to the local demand curve, an interesting alternative for the country. The Ouarzazate CSP plant of 160MW could cover peak-hour electricity in Morocco thanks to 3 hours of thermal storage.
Ouarzazate’s contribution to the development of the solar thermal industry has attracted interest from, among others, The World Bank, mainly because of both the technical quality and the competitive price offered in this project. Last November, Aries Ingeniería y Sistemas, ACWA Power’s technical advisor during the bidding and engineering phase of the property, presented its views on the future of CSP technology through the success story of Ouarzazate in Washington D.C.
Aries Ingeniería y Sistemas is an independent, global and diversified engineering company that develops effective, high value added solutions in the Energy and Test Systems sectors, integrating the most advanced technology with the highest qualified team of professionals.
Aries Ingeniería y Sistemas offers engineering solutions including feasibility studies, basic and detailed engineering, construction, and start-up and operation in the Test Systems and Energy sectors. As a result of international expansion, the company has offices in Spain, the United States and China. With a presence in over 22 countries, Aries develops a strategy directed at specific markets, allowing for a strong, stable and profitable growth.