Torresol – a joint venture between Spain’s SENER and Abu Dhabi’s Masdar, plans to invest up to $5 billion building 6 Giga Watts of concentrated solar-thermal power (CSP) projects over the next three years in the deserts of the Middle East North Africa region, Spain, and the US. Although the sites are not yet named, at least one of the plants will be in Abu Dhabi.
Initially developed for Middle East desert conditions by the Israeli engineer Luz, and resurrected (Luz Rises Again as BrightSource) as BrightSource, which has huge projects in the US now, this kind of solar is now comparatively more expensive than photovoltaic solar, for the first time.
This is due to the drop in the cost of refining polysilicon and the intense competition among PV solar panel manufacturers.
The company (‘torre’ is Spanish for tower, and ‘sol’ for sun) says it is optimistic in getting the funding for its ambitious solar project pipeline. “Despite the ongoing economic troubles facing much of the world”, says Torresol President Enrique Sendagorta, “we believe we can achieve our goals as foreign banks are becoming more interested in financing solar power projects because it is a winning investment”.
But concentrating solar power – CSP – uses mirrors to reflect sun onto towers that hold a fluid that heats up in the sun to make steam to drive turbines.
That means that only this kind of (thermal) energy has the potential to supply solar that can be dialed up and down as needed, and to supply power into the evening hours, because you can add storage capacity to a thermal plant by storing the heat in a molten salt for use later. The first Masdar/SENER Torresol project in Switzerland Gemasolar can run 15 hours a day.
So, because energy storage is an increasingly vital aspect of renewable power, as we add more of it, the lifetime utility of a CSP plant is actually better, even with a lower cost initially to build a solar PV project.
“We are developing a pipeline of projects in Spain, the U.S., and in the Middle East North Africa region,” Sendagorta told the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi. “The investment would range between $3.5 billion and $5 billion.”
Part of the funding is likely to come from the oil-rich and now very eco-friendly Abu Dhabi, which through its Masdar Group owns a 40% share (to SENER’s 60%) of Torresol.
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