Abengoa Solar has been selected by Xcel Energy, Colorado’s largest electric utility company, to build a demonstration parabolic trough concentrating solar power (CSP) plant at its Cameo coal plant.
The project is the first to integrate an industrial solar installation into a conventional electrical power plant. Construction is expected to start within a month and the plant is expected to be operational by the end of the year. The project, awarded to Abengoa Solar by Xcel, is the first project under an Innovative Clean Technology program that has been approved for Xcel Energy by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.
The goal of the project is to prove that the heat produced by a solar facility can increase the efficiency of a conventional power plant while also lowering carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Successful integration of this technology may enable future large-scale applications of this technology into other power plants.
"We continue to move forward in developing ways to help us reduce our impact on the environment," said David Wilks, President of Energy Supply for Xcel Energy. "If this demonstration works, we may be able to implement this type of technological advance in other coal-fired power plants to help further reduce carbon dioxide emissions in Colorado and possibly other areas of our service territory."
This four thermal megawatt solar installation will use state-of-the-art parabolic trough collectors developed by Abengoa Solar.
Ken May, Director of Abengoa Solar IST, emphasized the high potential of large-scale applications of the industrial solar installation technology: “Proper use of the solar thermal energy produced at these facilities can improve plant efficiency while lowering CO2 emissions. The successful integration of solar and coal technologies will encourage more widespread use throughout the utility sector.”
Parabolic Trough Technology for Industrial Solar Installations
Parabolic trough technology can be used for both electricity generation as well as for producing thermal energy for industrial processes. More extensive use of this technology could have a significant positive impact on the environment.
Abengoa Solar’s industrial parabolic trough technology installation utilizes collectors that track the sun during the daytime in order to concentrate solar radiation onto a heat-absorbing pipe located at the focal line of the parabola. The heated fluid that circulates through the pipe reaches high temperatures and, by means of a heat exchanger, produces energy that can be used to generate steam, to heat water or air, or to run an absorption machine for an air conditioning system.
Concentrating Solar Power Parabolic Trough
Trough technology is a clean and mature solar power solution with years of successful power generation behind it. Troughs have been in use since the 80s with outstanding results. The technology has been improving steadily for the last 30 years, and modern troughs operate more efficiently at lower cost. Today, there is more than 300 MW of CSP trough power in operation around the world, with 400 MW under construction and around 6 GW in development.
Introduction to Technology
A parabolic trough is a large, curved mirror that sits on a motorized base, allowing it to follow the movement of the sun throughout the day. The mirror’s unique parabolic shape is designed to gather a great deal of sunlight and then reflect that light onto a single point, concentrating the solar power.
A receiver tube sits at the point where the mirror concentrates all the sunlight. The tube is filled with a synthetic heat transfer oil, heated by the mirror’s light to around 750 F (400 C). This superheated oil is then pumped from the solar field to a nearby power block, where the oil’s heat is converted to high-pressure steam in a series of heat exchangers. This steam pushes a conventional steam turbine, creating electricity.
Parabolic trough technology is the most developed CSP technology, and has been a major focus of Abengoa Solar’s research efforts. Abengoa Solar is currently deploying parabolic troughs at the Solúcar Platform outside of Seville, Spain a collection of five 50 MW plants. Continue on