A consortium of European governments, universities and research institutions are funding an innovative solar/biomass hybrid power plant test, coordinated by Italy’s national energy agency, ENEA. The EU is funding the pilot Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) project in Egypt with 11,755,049 Euros, through the EU Seventh Framework Programme.
The project will test units that can produce electricity from two renewable sources. The solar energy is to come from a concentrating solar power technology using molten salts as the heat transfer fluid, the same way that Masdar’s Gemasolar plant in Spain works, in the first 24-hour solar power plant in the world.
The CSP technology to be used in the pilot was developed and improved on by Italy’s ENEA; a solar thermal technology based on molten salts as the heat transfer fluid, able to deliver temperatures up to 550 ° C.
This uses mirrors to focus sunlight to heat up the molten salts, and these molten salts then both store and supply the heat needed to produce electricity in the same way that traditional thermal (coal, gas, or biomass) plants operate – on steam driven turbines.
Interestingly, this pilot project will also run on biomass at night, which is burned in the thermal power plant, making this a novel hybrid of two renewable forms of electricity.
While solar thermal CSP is particularly well suited to hybrid combos with the other thermal sources of energy in the back end, it has been only paired till now with fossil thermal energy sources to this point, piggybacked onto a coal plant, or – as at Kuraymat (photographed by our own Tafline Laylin) on a natural gas plant.
This one will be paired with steam supplied by burning waste biomass, biogas, or industrial residues, making this a renewable/renewable hybrid. This technology allows combined heat and power production from solar power that is integrated with other renewable fuels, such as biomass, biogas, industrial residues.
Towards the end of the four year project, an experimental demonstration plant will be built at the Campus of the City University of Science and Technology of Borg-el-Arab, near Alexandria, Egypt. This plant will co-generate 1 MW of electricity and 4 MW of thermal energy to power air conditioning equipment for buildings as well as a small desalination unit, that can supply 250 cubic meters of water per day .
The pilot project is small, and hopes to produce some results that would lead to it being utilized in small or medium size power plants which could be placed close to the need for the desalination, and electricity supply.
It is intended as a model to supply local power and heat needs, and one that is easily able to accept a back-up renewable energy fuel (the biomass, biogas, or waste) of whichever sort is locally abundant. By pairing the solar with the biomass, the expectation is that a 24 hour electricity supply can be produced.
Because the MENA region is a rich source of the solar radiation that is ideal for CSP, its success could lead to wide scale adoption in this region and others that are similarly underserved with electricity, while being “over-served” with the solar potential to supply it.
Egypt in particular, and many other countries in the MENA region have a demand for electricity that is growing at some of the fastest rates in the world. The region is to varying extents dependent on desalination for water supplies. McKinsey has predicted that by 2030 water consumption will increase by 40 percent.
Read more on Middle East solar power:
Middle Eastern Oil Companies Try Solar CSP to Boost Oil Production
Interview: SolarReserve For the MENA Region?
$109 Billion Solar Plan to Power a Third of Saudi Arabia
Above image by Christopher Kraemer