The first turn-key solar power plant from Germany’s protarget AG marks a new generation of CSP (Concentrating Solar Power) plants.
Thanks to a standardised manufacturing process and modular construction, the solar thermal systems can be realised more quickly and cost-efficiently. This will not only make solar electricity more easily accessible throughout the world but will also make unsubsidised solar power plants affordable in many regions. «Up to now, CSP plants with huge mirror fields have been large-scale projects requiring substantial financing as well as involving long planning and construction times. protarget can now supply turn-key CSP plants straight from the shelf,» says Martin Scheuerer, Managing Director of protarget AG.
Protarget has developed the new plant type in the context of a technology transfer with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and with support from renowned industrial partners. It is designed for small to medium applications from 1 to 20 megawatts (MW). The company’s engineers modelled the manufacturing process on the auto industry’s platform philosophy. This allows the investment costs per MW of installed capacity to be cut by 30 percent compared to conventional solar power stations; the electricity generation costs drop below 15 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) depending on the region. «In sun-belt regions, this allows us to compete successfully with other forms of energy such as diesel, gas, coal and photovoltaics without subsidisation,» Martin Scheuerer adds.
Besides generating energy, solar thermal plants can also be used for cooling, air-conditioning and industrial processes. The electricity generated is available 24/7. Going forward, a 5 MW power plant will be able to supply some 13 million kWh of electricity per year, which is equivalent to the consumption of about 4,000 households or one industrial park.
Dr. Ing. Eckhard Lüpfert from the DLR’s Solar Research Institute is convinced of the great potential of CSP technology. «Large solar thermal plants have operated reliably for over 25 years in the USA and in other countries and have proven their worth in practice. As smaller plant sizes and increasing standardisation will significantly reduce the required capital outlay and the price of fossil fuels continues to rise, this use of solar energy has a great future both ecologically and economically. Power generation costs of 10 cents per kWh can soon become reality.»
«We believe that solar power stations will play a very important role in the energy mix of many countries, as they are able to use the richest energy source in world – the sun – to produce reliable and affordable electricity also in smaller local grids,» says Scheuerer. «This will make these countries and their economies self-sufficient and independent of future energy price trends.»
A first reference plant of the new type was successfully taken near Munich (Southern Germany) into service in October. From now on, further plants of the same type are to be realised in sun-belt regions, in a first step primarily in the Arab region and the Mediterranean.