Airlight Energy Brings CSP to Morocco from Switzerland

airlight energy swiss moroccoA cement plant in Morocco will switch on sunshine from Switzerland this year.

The world’s fifth largest cement producer, with an annual production capacity of approximately 75 million tons of cement, Italcementi Group is pioneering a concentrated solar power (CSP) plant at the site of one of its cement plants – in Ait Baha, Morocco. CSP for industrial use is becoming more common in the MENA region as the oil age draws to a close. The Saudis are pioneering CSP in oil fields to extract oil, for example.

The Airlight Energy solar project in Morocco will cost €2.7 million, but bring greater efficiency than other CSP. Using a novel, modular Fresnel collector system, the Swiss company’s ‘Flaming Air’ air-based fresnel receivers can generate temperatures of above 650 degrees celcius, using low-pressure receiver technology.

A much larger than usual 9.5 meter mirror enables very high concentration compared to existing systems that are typically smaller, around 5 meters. The size is key.

“The air pipe is at low pressure like a traditional HVAC duct for air conditioning; despite the higher temperature, the technology is simple” says chief technology officer Andrea Pedretti, in an interview with CSPToday. “We are able to use air, which requires a large pipe, because our structure is large enough and receiver does not create any shadow on the primary mirror.”

The mirror surfaces are Teflon so desert dust and dirt cannot attach to the surface easily. Onsite pre-cast concrete and plastic fibre reinforced support structures make it cheap and the Inflatech’ aluminized polyester foils make it super efficient. These reflectors are housed within a controlled atmosphere, with transparent ETFE foils above and a fiberglass membrane beneath, which protect the reflectors from dust and humidity.

“The collector cost is much less compared to steel or aluminum frame and current glass or aluminum mirror. Our mirror foil is 0.5€/per square meter compared to 20€ per square meter or more for glass mirror. No special materials are used; concrete can be manufactured everywhere” says Pedretti.

But he cautions that erecting the system in Morocco comes with a proviso.”An accurate steel frame cannot be produced in a low developed country and should be manufactured in Europe and transported to Africa”.

The project will be installed within the next twelve months. The power it generates from the sun will be integrated into the existing system of heat recovery of the cement plant to provide 150 KW of electric power with three solar collectors and a storage unit. The solar power will replace part of the fossil power consumption of the cement plant with green energy resources, saving .

The Italcementi Group is the former co-chair of the Cement Sustainability Initiative, evidencing a real commitment to finding a solution for sustainable development in the very fossil-energy-dependent cement industry.

“The supply agreement with Airlight Energy represents a further tangible improvement of the sustainable development policy we are implementing in the cement industry” said Giuseppe de Beni, managing director of Italgen. “It is an innovative application that will combine the heat of the production process with that one generated from a renewable source”.

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