SustainableBusiness.com reports that Abengoa have begin operation of their Solnova 1 solar thermal power plant in Spain Abengoa Begins Operation of 50MW Concentrating Solar Power Plant.
Abengoa Solar, a unit of Spanish corporation Abengoa (ABG.MC), has begun commercial operation of a new 50-megawatts (MW) solar thermal power plant in Spain.
The company said Solnova 1's performance matches the theoretical output of the design, validating the potential of parabolic trough technology for capturing and converting the sun's heat into electricity.
Abengoa Solar built a smaller pilot plant in 2007. And the company has contracts to build two much larger plants in the US--one in California (250 MW) and the other in Arizona (280 MW).
Solnova 1 is made up of around 980,000 square feet (300,000 square meters) of mirrors that cover an area totalling approximately 280 acres (115 hectares). The plant employs technology which concentrates solar radiation onto a heat-absorbing pipe inside of which flows a liquid that reaches high temperatures. This fluid transfers its energy to the water vapor that reaches a turbo-generator, where it expands to produce electricity.
Martin LaMonica at CNet reports that Abengoa are one of the companies the DOE has allocated energy storage research funding to - DOE funds to stretch solar power via salt storage.
The Department of Energy is funding a series of projects that marry concentrating solar power with storage, which offers the potential of solar power plants that operate 18 hours a day.
The DOE said Friday that it has made $62 million available to 13 companies to test equipment and materials, such as molten salts, to add storage to solar power systems that use heat to produce electricity.
Concentrating solar power, in which the sun's heat creates steam to drive an electricity turbine, is seeing a renaissance because it can be used for large-scale power plants in deserts. Adding storage can extend the time these plants supply electricity to the grid and can potentially improve the economics of solar versus fossil fuels.
The DOE's target is to extend the output of concentrating solar power systems to 18 hours, covering the peak times of electricity usage.
The top three recipients are Abengoa Solar, eSolar, and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, each of which received more than $10 million for molten-salt research.
Abengoa Solar is already operating a solar storage facility and will test a solar tower that operates at a higher temperature, which could improve the overall output for a given land area. Solar tower designs use heliostats, or mirrors that track the sun, to reflect light onto a tower to heat a liquid.