At the end of March 2007, Europe’s first commercial concentrated solar power plant was inaugurated in Seville, South West Spain. A total of 624 large (120 square metre) moveable mirrors called heliostats track and focus the sun’s rays to a single solar receiver at the top of a 115 metre tall tower.
At temperatures of up to 250 degrees Celcius the solar receiver turns water into steam which turns a steam turbine generator also located in the tower producing electricity.
The new plant, PS10 (Planta Solar 10), is the first commercial solar thermoelectric power plant in the world and has a peak capacity of 11MW – sufficient to generate 23 million kWh of electricity per year powering 6,000 homes and saving 18,000 tonnes of carbon emissions per year. The plant took four years to build with construction finishing at the end of 2005 and has so far cost 35 million Euro. Construction was led by Solucar, an Albengoa company.
A second power tower, PS20 is being constructed which will produce around a peak of around 20MW of electricity. Construction began in October 2006.
PS10 is the first of a series of concentrated solar power plants which will total 300 MW of peak capacity by 2013 – enough to power almost 200,000 homes. The total cost of the project is in excess of 1.2 billion Euro.
NEW – Click here to watch a BBC video of a Tour of the Solar Tower.
Nevada Solar One
Nevada Solar One, a 64MW concentrated solar power plant is about to go live in the Mojave Desert, Nevada, USA. This power plant works in a different way though with parabolic mirrors focusing the sun’s rays onto their own solar receivers instead of the sunlight from all of the mirrors being focused onto one central receiver.