European research ministers and the European Commission have given the go-ahead to three new European energy research infrastructures, including a concentrated solar plant in Spain.

The announcement at the Infrastructures for Energy Research conference in Brussels, Belgium, also included a wind research facility in Denmark and a nuclear research reactor in Belgium.

All are part of the updated European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) roadmap, which is scheduled for publication before the end of the year. Under the newly launched Innovation Union initiative, the EU has set itself the challenge of launching 60% of the research infrastructures identified by ESFRI by 2015.

The project in Spain is called EU-SOLARIS and is based at the Advanced Technology Centre for Renewable Energies (CTAER) in the Desert of Tabernas in Almería, southeastern Spain. The site’s annual insolation of 1,900 kWh/m2 (kilowatt hours per square meter) makes it ideal for an infrastructure project designed to take concentrated solar power technology to the next level.

Concentrated solar power uses reflectors to concentrate the sun’s rays onto a receiver, where the thermal energy is converted into electricity. New scientific and technological developments require experimental demonstration of the suitability, durability, reproducibility, efficiency and competitiveness of concentrated solar power technology that is designed for large-scale deployment.

The EU-SOLARIS facility will fill the gap from theory or lab-scale tests to a demonstration plant of almost commercial size. The EU-SOLARIS project will cost around EUR 80 million.

“Developing world-class research infrastructure in Europe, by pooling resources at EU level, is an important objective of the Innovation Union. These facilities will enable groundbreaking research and innovation and ultimately they could help to secure the EU’s future energy supply," commented the European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn.

“We need to bring research, technology, industry and market implementation closer together and that is the purpose of the European Strategic Energy Technology Plan.”

ESFRI, the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures, is a strategic instrument to develop the scientific integration of Europe and to strengthen its international outreach. The competitive and open access to high quality Research Infrastructures supports and benchmarks the quality of the activities of European scientists, and attracts the best researchers from around the world.


The mission of ESFRI is to support a coherent and strategy-led approach to policy-making on research infrastructures in Europe, and to facilitate multilateral initiatives leading to the better use and development of research infrastructures, at EU and international level.

ESFRI’s delegates are nominated by the Research Ministers of the Member and Associate Countries, and include a representative of the Commission, working together to develop a joint vision and a common strategy. This strategy aims at overcoming the limits due to fragmentation of individual policies and provides Europe with the most up-to-date Research Infrastructures, responding to the rapidly evolving Science frontiers, advancing also the knowledge-based technologies and their extended use.

Since it was formed in 2002 at the behest of the European Council, ESFRI has witnessed significant advances towards unity and international impact in the field of research infrastructures. The publication of the first Roadmap for pan-European research infrastructures in 2006, and its update in 2008 was a key contributing factor, and several projects are now entering the realization phase. The Forum is determined to sustain the momentum in the implementation of the projects on the Roadmap, to expand the outreach to those scientific fields which are still evolving their conceptual approach in this direction, and to increase the involvement of all Countries by developing ad-hoc Regional policies. A further update of the ESFRI Roadmap, focusing on Energy, Food and Biology, will be published at the end of 2010, to coincide with a Conference to be held under the Belgian Presidency of the EU.

To keep Europe at the rapidly evolving forefront of science and technology, and to increase the capacity to meet the needs of the EU and World scientific community, much remains to be done: ESFRI looks forward to the challenging times ahead.