Abengoa Solar began ion and production testing conducted over the course of three days. This plant has enabled Abengoa Solar to reach a total of 143 megawatts in commercial operation, in addition to the 350 megawatts currently under construction and several thousand more which are being promoted in various geographical locations.

The Solnova 3 plant incorporates parabolic trough technology developed by Abengoa Solar, and has integrated significant design enhancements. This plant has the same features as its predecessor, Solnova 1, its first parabolic trough technology plant that began operating commercially at the beginning of May.

Among concentrated solar power (CSP) technologies, trough systems are the most mature. Trough systems have been running since the 1980s, and in that time have seen dramatic improvements in performance and cost. Currently there are more than 300 MW of trough systems in operation, with 400 MW under construction and approximately 6 GW in development, according to Abengoa Solar.


Operating Scheme for parabolic trough technology. Source: Abengoa Solar. Click to enlarge.

A parabolic trough is a large, curved mirror that sits on a motorized base, allowing it to follow the movement of the sun throughout the day. The mirror’s parabolic shape is designed to concentrate sunlight onto a receiver tube filled with a synthetic heat transfer oil, which is heated by the mirror’s light to around 750 °F (400 °C). This superheated oil is then pumped from the solar field to a nearby power block, where the oil’s heat is converted to high-pressure steam in a series of heat exchangers. This steam pushes a conventional steam turbine, creating electricity.

Solnova 3 is made up of around 984,252 square feet (300,000 square meters) of mirrors that cover an area totaling approximately 284 acres (115 hectares).

With its 50 megawatts of power, the new Solnova 3 solar station will generate enough clean energy to meet the electricity needs of 25,700 homes, while preventing the emission of approximately 31,400 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. The companies Abener and Teyma were in charge of plant construction executed through a turnkey supply contract.

Last week, Abengoa Solar, through a contract totalling US$10.6 million with the US Department of Energy (DOE), launched a research project to develop a new solar power tower technology with innovative fluids featuring a receiver and storage system to enable electricity production even when solar energy is not available. (Earlier post.)