New sun rays for solar thermal, the energy future of Spain? With 49 operational concentrating solar power plants totaling 2.3 gigawatts, Spain is a world leader in terms of production capacity with this renewable and also technologically. And this, despite the fact that the installed power has been stagnant since 2013. The National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan (Pniec) 2021-2030, pending approval yet, provides for the installation of five gigawatts during this period of time , which will double the current capacity.
The decision is framed in a context of decarbonization of the energy mix and in full price decline, «which are now close to those of the generation of electricity with natural gas,» said Luis Crespo, president of the Spanish Association for the Promotion of Solar Thermal Industry (Protermosolar).
Thanks to their storage capacity, Concentrated Solar Power plants continue to generate energy hours after the sun has set. This characteristic makes this renewable an ideal candidate to become “the source of energy to support the photovoltaic solar in the hours that there is no light,” says Crespo. «It doesn’t matter whether or not the sun shines to generate electricity,» says the president of Protermosolar.
«Without an adequate development of electrical storage, Concentrated Solar Power technology with storage in molten salts could provide firm power complementary to the photovoltaic and wind generation, achieving a manageable mix», corroborates the general director of the Institute for Diversification and Energy Saving (IDAE), Joan Groizard.
Generation costs have been reduced by 47% between 2010 and 2018, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena). «In Spain it is not yet as economical as gas, but while the costs of generating the latter will rise, due to its greenhouse gas emissions, those of the solar thermal will continue to fall due to technological improvements,» says Crespo.
The director of Protermosolar also points to the possibility of Spain becoming an exporter of this type of energy to other European countries. Crespo explains that in the State there are two of the essential conditions for solar thermal: lots of sun and a large availability of land.
The necessary amount of sun is such that only the plants installed further south of Madrid are viable, according to the director of the employer’s sector, unless they rely on another energy source. The latter is the case of Termosolar Borges, located in Les Borges Blanques, which combines thermoelectric solar technology with a biomass unit.