Why is the performance testing of newly developed plants important for the future of large scale projects in the US?
As the development of large-scale CSP projects begins in the United States, the ability to accurately determine the performance characteristics in the efficiency, heat losses and overall power output of plants under operation is essential for generating widespread confidence in CSP technologies. After more than 10 years in hibernation, parabolic trough technology has been revived again with commercial projects in the United States, Spain and North Africa. During this hibernation of commercial development, R&D efforts have led to significant technological advances and the industry is anxious to hear how these new plants perform in practice. Currently, the most prominent example of the deployment of new generation parabolic trough technologies is the Andasol I project, and Fishtner Solar GmBH recently facilitated in the performance testing of this plant.
Andasol I is Europe’s first commercial parabolic trough solar thermal power plant located in Andalusia, Spain, and the first in the world with thermal storage. Construction began in June 2006 and was completed in 2008 costing a total of 300 million Euros. A two-tank indirect thermal storage system holds 28,500 tons of molten salt, and this reservoir can power the turbine for up to 7.5 hours at full load. This storage capacity means that reliable power can be delivered in periods of solar irradiance and allows for a higher annual capacity factor, but more importantly shows that thermal storage can successfully be deployed in full-scale commercial projects.
Fishtner Solar GmBH are the world’s leading independent consultant engineering company for solar thermal power plants, and has provided engineering services for thirty large solar power projects in twelve countries, with the total investment volume for these projects exceeding €5 billion. Miroslav Dolejsi of Fishtner Solar has been working alongside ACS Cobra, the EPC contractor and joint owner of Andasol I, to effectively measure the performance output of this plant and is set to share his experiences at the 2nd CSP Plant Optimization Summit later this year.
The importance of the actual performance of newly constructed plants is evident when we consider that despite 30 years of experience the CSP industry finds itself in unfamiliar surroundings, as 100MW+ project’s throw up further technical hurdles that must be overcome. Bill Hargett, Manging Director of Sun to Market Solutions, emphasized this in a recent interview with CSP Today when he stated that “there are factors putting pressure on the industry to reach a lower LCOE and conventional photovoltaic prices have really come down so we are seeing larger and larger installations come into play. This makes it increasingly important for the CSP industry to collaborate as a whole on design and engineering optimizations, to drive the cost basis down”.