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Abengoa Solar Awarded $10.6M Contract To Develop New Solar Power Tower System

Abengoa Solar, through a contract totalling US$10.6 million with the US Department of Energy (DOE), will launch 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.

Three power tower plants under operation at the Solúcar Platform (Seville, Spain). Click to enlarge.

The solar power tower system will be made up of a circular field of heliostats that will reflect solar radiation onto a central receiver where the heat will be concentrated. A portion of this heat will be used directly to generate steam, producing electricity inside the turbine, while the other portion will be stored to be utilized for producing electricity whenever it is needed.

This new award brings to a total of six the number of R&D agreements between Abengoa Solar Inc. and the DOE. Abengoa Solar’s R&D program is focused on enhancing solar energy efficiency and lowering costs through the use of new solar power technologies.

Abengoa Solar focuses on developing and applying innovative solutions to generate power and energy from the sun. Abengoa is a technology company servicing the infrastructure, environmental, and energy sectors. Abengoa is listed on the Spanish Stock Exchange and is present in more than seventy countries, where the company operates through its five Business Units: Solar, Bioenergy, Environmental Services, Information Technologies, and Industrial Engineering and Construction.



Always been interested in this approach. But land use issues even in desert will inevitably cloud some of the excitement. Still, for remote desert communities these power plants might be more viable than PV or wind.


If I recall correctly, Mobil had Solar 1 in the California desert decades ago. The parabolic troughs of Kramer Junction in the Mojave won out and have been productive for about 30 years. They send power to L.A. for all those air conditioners right at the time when they need it most.


I thought Rockwell had bought up some Molten Salt patents that allowed 90+% of heat from a tower to be stored for 3+ days. Build a big enough solar thermal farm and it could produce power round the clock.

eSolar, which seems to have the efficiency thing pretty well mapped out is going with traditional fluids but modular, smaller solar thermal farms which can be put on previously disturbed lands (no environmental holdups), closer to population centers.

They have a 5MW demo plant they tout for that .

I think parabolic troughs are inherently less efficient than towers, because towers get the target fluid much hotter, which apparently makes the steam pressure push the turbines more efficiently, or somesuch.


One "solar tower" design I've seen lessens the land use problem by using overlapping fields of heliosats that alternately reflect light on to multiple focal points so as to reduce shading from closely spaced mirrors;


Another research project in the works. It's time to start building solar thermal plants in the Southwest. Let the environmentalists who worry about the California Desert Ground Squirrel be damned.


Spain has been very supportive of this and I think the environmental groups in California are supportive of wind and solar. We have talked about energy storage for wind and solar but I am with Tesla. He stated long ago that geothermal is for base load and other renewable energy adds to that. This was during a time when hydroelectric was big, but he understood the limits of that.

With LED lighting and lower power panel displays, EVs and other methods, we use less fossil fuels and energy in general, so the renewable sources go farther. He thought the electric car was a good idea and developed the florescent light bulb to save energy. He was a man ahead of his time and we have wasted time ever since, talking a good game, but not following through.

Henry Gibson

Solar energy is free but the large area of land is not.

Solar energy is free but the collectors are not.

Solar energy is free but the transmission lines are not.

Solar energy is free but the hydroelectric dams are not.

Coal is free but the collection is not.

Coal is free but the boiler is not.

But the equipment to make and distribute electricity from coal is much cheaper than that needed to make electricity from solar.

The energy needed for an industrialized nation must be cheap. Solar energy is not. Most people cannot afford to buy the land alone needed to collect it.

The average US person uses energy at the rate of over 150 kilowatt hours a day for all energy including gasoline jet fuel, industrial energy etc.

This is about seven kilowatts which requires over 28 square meters to collect even if it were collected at 100 percent efficiency and used at 100 percent efficiency. Ten percent collection efficiency is high so a person must have at least 280 square meters per person. And with biofuels it requires at least 3000 square meters and a lot of water.



from Solar Revolution by Travis Bradford ..."one-third of the earth's surface is covered by sun-rich deserts, creating a potentially vast amount of energy resource. Some 4 percent of which (just over 1 percent of the total land area of the world) would meet the entire world's energy needs from these sources at today's efficiency levels."
Seems like we could find room to build plenty of solar power and still have plenty of environmentally protected areas in the desert.


"Solar energy is free but the large area of land is not."
It is if it's solar PV or solar hot-water on your roof.

"Solar energy is free but the collectors are not."
True, but their price is dropping and promises to keep doing so.

"Solar energy is free but the transmission lines are not."
No transmission lines for panels on your roof.

"Solar energy is free but the hydroelectric dams are not."

Solar is already below end-of-grid-parity in Hawaii and continuing to drop in price so it will be below end-of-grid-parity soon in S. Cal. Sales to home owners hoping to cut their electric bills will increase dramatically. Solar PV is the cell phone of the power industry. CST needs to have storage because this will be it's only reasonable use when solar PV is done invading the market. This project is a wise investment.


...for CST

"Solar energy is free but the large area of land is not." Desert land and damaged land is not expensive.

"Solar energy is free but the collectors are not."
CST collectors are also continuing to get cheaper.

"Solar energy is free but the transmission lines are not." Same for any centralized power.

"Solar energy is free but the hydroelectric dams are not." Thermal storage is not free but is relatively cheap.

Price of all fossil fuels are increasing and will continue to increase. Trends are clear and so is long term investment advantage.


There may be land use issues, but there is lots of Federal land in the desert. Maybe a public/private partnership would work where the government leases the land long term and business can provide the capital and equipment. I would also like to see underground transmission lines. It costs more, but they are easier to maintain and can last longer.


Coal uses a lot of land too: strip mining and mtn top removal. And the coal is not free. You must own the mineral rights and then dig it out of the ground (with much ruin). Not to mention the pollution that rains down after burning, including mercury, and poisoning or water sources. There are none of those costs with solar.


Plus, the 'cheapness' of coal is relative. How cheap is coal to the families who lost their loved ones this year? Or the years before this?


The profits are private the costs are social. Those externalized costs like mercury, sulfur and the like are paid for in social costs that never go to the bottom line of the company.


No energy is really 100% free. It is normal to pay more for clean energy that dirty energy. Dirty energy cost a lot more than we think when clean up cost + environmental cost + social cost + health care cost etc are 100% factored in. The same applies for healthy food versus junk food.

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