The world’s first commercial-scale CSP plant featuring central tower receiver with thermal storage capabilities has commenced supplying electricity to 25,000 homes in the Andalucía region of Spain.


Torresol Energy, a joint venture between Masdar – Abu Dhabi’s leading future energy company and SENER – the leading Spanish engineering and construction firm, announced today the commissioning of its flagship 19.9MW Gemasolar Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plant in Seville, Spain.

The world’s first commercial-scale CSP plant featuring central tower receiver with thermal storage capabilities has commenced supplying electricity to 25,000 homes in the Andalucía region of Spain. The plant is expected to save more than 30,000 tonnes of CO2 emission a year.

The innovative molten salt heat transfer technology deployed at the Gemasolar greenfield independent power project helps avoid fluctuations in power supply through a system that is capable of 15 hours of energy production without sunlight. This accordingly allows for generation of electricity 24 hours a day for many months of the year, even during the hours of darkness or poor daylight during winter.

The Gemasolar plant comprises 2,650 heliostats (mirrors) that stretch approximately 185 hectares. The system is capable of reaching temperatures exceeding 900-degrees Centigrade at the central receiver located at the top of the tower. The tower technology uses molten salt as a heat transfer medium that reaches temperatures above 500 degrees Centigrade and allows delivering hotter and more pressurized steam to the turbine than the parabolic trough technology, which significantly increases the performance of the overall plant.

SENER was responsible for providing the technology, the engineering detail design and part of the EPC and commissioning works of the plant. The technology developed by SENER includes state-of-the-art solutions such as the molten salt storage system and the receiver, which is able to absorb 95% of the radiation from the sun’s spectrum and transmit this energy to the molten salt compound that circulates within the receiver, which is then used to heat steam and operate the steam turbines.

Frank Wouters, Director of Masdar Power, said: “The commissioning of the CSP plant marks another key milestone in the development and deployment of solar energy in Europe. It also highlights Masdar’s commitment to partner with global industry leaders such as SENER and bring clean technology closer to the community”.

“Masdar is currently working on other solar power projects within the UAE including Shams One and Noor One projects, each with 100MW capacity. We will continue to work closely with industry leaders in the development of projects and ensure they are commissioned and connected to local grids as part of our larger efforts to adopt clean and renewable energy.”

Miguel Domingo, Solar Business Director of SENER, added: “The on-schedule and on-budget completion of the construction and commissioning of the Gemasolar plant is a milestone for SENER. Currently, SENER is the only company in the world that has developed and built a commercial plant with central tower molten salt receiver technology that has already started operation.”

Enrique Sendagorta, Chairman of Torresol Energy, said: “Gemasolar is a revolution in the CSP sector, as the standardization of this new technology will mean a real reduction in the investment costs for solar plants. The commercial operation of this plant will lead the way for other central tower plants with molten salt receiver technology, an efficient system that improves the dispatchability of electric power from renewable sources.”

Founded in 2008, Torresol Energy is a 40:60 Masdar-SENER joint venture. The company that commercially develops, manages construction, owns and operates CSP plants globally has been awarded a 25-year regulated tariff by the Spanish Government.

Torresol Energy’s Gemasolar project received EUR171 million financing through a transaction that involved several leading European financial institutions including Banco Popular, Banesto, ICO and the European Investment Bank.

SENER has already been nominated to represent Spain in the prestigious 2011 European Business Awards in the ‘Innovation’ category for the Gemasolar project’s molten salt storage system technology, which is considered revolutionary in the concentrated solar power sector. The final category Award winners will be announced in Barcelona in November 2011.

Torresol Energy also owns the Valle 1 and Valle 2 plants –currently under construction – that will employ parabolic trough technology and have a power generation capacity of 50MW each. Valle 1 will have the capability to generate 3,950 hours of electricity a year – equivalent to the average consumption of 40,000 households, or in other words, the entire city of Cadiz. The two plants at Cadiz in Spain will together help avoid the emission of 90,000 tonnes of CO2 a year. Both plants will start operations on 31 December 2011.

Torresol Energy’s focus areas for developing, building and operating additional CSP plans include the US, Southern Europe, Middle East and North Africa. In these areas, the company aims to promote tower plants with a central receiver tower system, or parabolic trough technology, based on the experience acquired in Spain and Abu Dhabi in the UAE.

Spain is one of the world’s most advanced renewable energy players. In 2009, renewable energy represented 12.5 per cent of total energy generation in Spain, and this is expected to go up to 20 per cent by 2020.

Masdar Power’s other projects include the 1GW London Array, the largest offshore wind farm in the world that will have 341 wind turbines, 30MW onshore wind farm project on Sir Bani Yas Island, 250km southwest of Abu Dhabi city, the Mahe onshore wind farm in Seychelles, and Masdar PV, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Masdar that produces amorphous silicon thin film photovoltaic modules eight times larger and more powerful than the industry standard at its plant in Germany.