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Mega hybrid solar projects ready to take on baseload fossil fuels

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2015 is shaping up to be a big year for the development of huge, hybrid solar power plants – the mega solar complexes that combine solar PV with solar towers and storage, and which are tipped to compete, soon, with baseload fossil fuels on both price and energy supply.

In January, the year kicked off with a record low winning bid by Saudi power firm ACWA, to build a 100MW solar tower plus storage plant in Redstone, South Africa, using technology (pictured below) from the US-based Solar Reserve, whose first completed plant in Nevada is due to begin generating power any day now.

“This a big deal. It is not a one off thing,” the chief of ACWA Power, Paddy Padmanathan told RenewEconomy at the time, in an interview.

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This week, the mega solar movement has gained further momentum with the advancement of two more hybrid projects in Chile and Morocco – both taking advantage, like the South Africa project, of parts of the world with plenty of available land and rich solar resources.

In Chile, Spanish renewables group Abengoa was granted permission to build its $1.2 billion, 210MW Atacama 2 solar hybrid project in the Chilean desert.

The project will combine 100MW of solar PV and 110MW of concentrating solar power (CSP), with the latter portion of the plant equipped with storage capacity of 15 hours, ensuring a 24-hour power supply.

It will be Abengoa’s second CSP/PV hybrid plant in Chile, having already begun construction on the Atacama 1 project, also in the sun-drenched northern region of Antofagasta.

As PV Magazine reports, Chile is predicted to add around 770MW of solar PV capacity in 2015, coming from a base of less than 13MW in 2013 – currently, it has an installed total of 500MW.

Abengoa, alone, is on course to develop more than 400MW of CSP capacity in Chile in 2015, as the country aims to reach 20 per cent renewables by 2025.

In Morocco, another Spanish company, Sener, has begun construction on phases two and three of the massive Noor project – the world’s largest thermosolar complex, with a planned final production capacity of 510MW.

The complex, located near the Moroccan city of Ouarzazate, is made up of four plants, three of which will use thermosolar technology developed Sener.

The first, the 160MW Noor I plant, is fitted with Sener’s patented cylindrical parabolic troughs, and will begin operations later this year.

planta-noor-1-en-construccion-un-proyecto-de-sener

Noor I, under construction in Morocco.

Noor II and Noor III will also be built by Sener, after it won a €500 million contract to complete the final two thermosolar phases of the complex.

Nor II will use the second generation of Sener’s troughs, and will have a production capacity of 200 MW. The 150MW Noor III will use central tower technology with salt receivers – the same as was used in the Gemasolar plant in Seville.

All three Noor solar plants will incorporate a molten salt storage system, making it possible to produce electricity 24 hours a day. They are expected to start commercial operations in 2017. (Noor IV will be a photovoltaic technology plant.)

According to ACWA’s Padmanathan, it is projects like these, and his company’s in South Africa, that will bring solar power directly into competition with baseload fossil fuels, making them not just cheaper than coal and gas, but just as reliable, cleaner – and without fuel price volatility.

In his January interview with RE, Padmanathan predicted that solar – a combination of PV and thermal plus storage – could make up more than half of the 140,000MW that he expects will be built in the Middle East and north Africa region (MENA) over the coming two decades.

He predicts the levelled price of solar PV plants will fall to around 4c/kWh within a few years, while the pricing of solar towers with storage will fall to around 9c/kWh.

“This (South Africa project) is completely unsubsidised. It is 20 per cent lower than what has been achieved so far, and 30 per cent below gas fired generation.

“In this part of the world, where there is plenty of land, and a good solar resource, we can compete head on, and like-for-like with fossil fuels,” he said.  

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  • john

    So reading the article the conclusion is that in second tier countries they can skip the FF energy source and move straight to the RE source of power.
    Question?
    Why can not first tier countries take advantage of this?
    Information.
    The technology comes from 1st tier countries.
    Second tier countries do not have the expertise to do this.
    First tier countries do.
    What is the problem here I ask?
    Perplexing question.
    Possible reason
    First tier countries have energy sources that has historical beginnings that were built some over 80 years ago so inherently they are now cheaper than todays cost of investment.
    A large degree of control over the supply of energy by historical producers of same precluding them form making any move to invest to supply the same power as they do now from FF.
    I think this is the real cause and the reason why present day 1st Tier Countries will not make any effort what so every to move in this direction.

    • Will

      You touched on the answers peripherally.

      1. Existing utilities stand to lose much as solar begins to push excess power into local grids.

      2. The largest companies (oil & gas) in the world have huge incentives to oppose solar.

      3. Those large and powerful companies have been successfully influencing the political process for decades.

      4. Regulatory bodies that oversee new power generation installations are slow-moving, beaurocratic entities that are, of course, influenced politically.

      5. Environmental special interest can be fickle, even opposing largely environmentally neutral power generation solutions.

      • john

        my thoughts on yours
        1 true
        2 perhaps they should like they did with early PV get back nto it
        3 It would appear so
        4 true
        5 true some aspects of hydro-wind-nuke

      • Graeme Condely

        google 1200 NEW COAL POWERED ELECTRICITY PLANTS UNDER CONSTRUCTION AROUND THE WORLD and give me your thoughts about coal being finished

  • Jacob

    that 9c/kwh figure for CSP. Hopefully “a few years” means by 2020.

    • john

      Actually look at the price in the middle east I think it was 6c/KwH

  • Ron Horgan

    Would Abengoa and Solar Reserve quote on the Adelaide opportunity?

  • Ron Horgan

    I note that the AWCA South African plant is completely unsubsidized!

  • brickbob

    My god we are backward here in this country,we truly are fossil fools.

  • Ian

    Morocco is only 9 miles away from Spain by sea. You can be sure that the noor hybrid plants are only the beginning of much larger ventures in the future to supply electricity markets in Europe. Turkey has become a manufacturing powerhouse for European markets and now with the advent of cheap electricity in Morocco that country too could develop a manufacturing industry, shipping costs would be minuscule.

  • Coley

    “In this part of the world, where there is plenty of land, and a good solar resource, we can compete head on, and like-for-like with fossil fuels,” he said.
    Now, what other country could fit that description?

  • Clee

    How can a parabolic trough be cylindrical? Wouldn’t that make it a cylindrical trough?

    • Mongo

      No. It’s just an elongated parabola.