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solar power

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Abengoa, the international company that applies innovative technology solutions for sustainability in the energy and environment sectors, together with the IDC and Khi Community Trust, has successfully completed 24 consecutive hours of commercial operation, solely powered by solar energy in its Khi Solar One plant. This plant is the first thermal solar tower plant in Africa and the first tower plant to achieve 24 hours of operation with solar energy.

The Khi Solar One plant is a one of a kind thermal solar tower that employs heated steam. It has a capacity of 50 MW, allowing it to supply clean energy to about 45,000 South African households. The plant began commercial operation on February 2nd, 2016.

The company has achieved this milestone thanks to the storage developed by Abengoa´s Research and Development team, the IDC and Khi Community Trust. The system accumulates steam at high temperatures and pressure, and allows for the generation of electricity after sunset. This system is capable of generating 50 MW for two hours after sunset. However, the fall in energy consumption at night allows for the operation of the plant below full power. Using this system, the operating unit of Abengoa, the IDC and Khi Community Trust in Khi Solar One have been able to produce electricity for 24 hours using only the steam generated by solar energy and meet energy needs. This milestone demonstrates the successful progress in the advancement of the operation of this innovative plant.

Khi Solar One is the result of significant research and development led by Abengoa. Specifically, the implementation of this large-scale project commercially, Abengoa previously operated a plant with a capacity of 5 MWt, located at the Solucar. Experience gained from the operation of the pilot plant allowed for the optimization of technology and served as a reference for project financing. All this work has resulted in the launch of a plant with increased efficiency, performance and production in terms of cost compared to previous models.

This project also offers numerous environmental and socioeconomic benefits. It eliminates the production of 183,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, providing the energy needed to meet the growing South African electricity demand in a sustainable manner. The plant has also promoted local economic development with the participation of a large number of local businesses. Similarly, the project’s part ownership by the Khi Community Trust ensures the continuity of investment in the community.

Along with this plant, Abengoa, IDC, PIC and KaXu Community Trust are currently in the process of building another 100 MW parabolic trough plant, Xina Solar One. This plant will employ a storage system that will allow the plant to operate for five hours without the sun. These projects demonstrate the commitment of Abengoa, IDC, PIC, Khi and Kaxu Community Trusts to the development of renewable energy in South Africa as part of the government strategy to collect up to 17,800 MW of renewable energy by 2030, thus reducing its dependence on oil and natural gas.

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With the final tower sections in place, Aalborg CSP in collaboration with John Holland has reached a major milestone in the construction of a globally-unique integrated solar energy system. More than 23,000 mirrors will soon harvest and reflect the sunrays onto the top of this solar tower to enable sustainable operation of 200,000 m2 greenhouses in the Australian desert.

The 127m structure consisting of 9 sections was assembled in short ten weeks. The top part, where the central receiver (boiler) is placed, altogether weighs 234 tons. The massive scope therefore required careful calculations to secure successful completion of what are understood to be the largest lifts to this height ever undertaken in Australia.

Once operational, the central receiver will gather the solar energy from more than 23,000 computer-controlled mirrors and convert it to steam which will then be used to produce multiple energy outputs. The Integrated Energy System will be able to heat the greenhouses in wintertime and on cold summer nights, to provide fresh water by desalinating seawater drawn from the nearby Spencer Gulf (5km from the site) and to run a steam turbine to produce electricity. The central receiver applies Aalborg CSP’s proven direct steam technology with natural circulation that has demonstrated excellent performance in some of the most efficient CSP power plants in the world.

Changing energy in the Australian desert

The Integrated Energy System is the first large-scale concentrated solar power-based technology in the world to provide multiple energy streams (heating, fresh water and electricity) for horticultural activities. Since construction has commenced, more than 23,000 computer-controlled mirrors have been installed in the desert ground. These mirrors will collect the sun’s rays and reflect them onto the top of the solar tower.Aalborg-CSP-and-John-Holland-colleagues

When the system goes operational, over 15,000,000 kg of tomatoes will be produced annually in the arid land of Port Augusta (South Australia) using sunlight and seawater as main resources. The groundbreaking concept of growing high-value crops in the desert originates from Sundrop Farms, which began testing its integrated system at a small scale in 2010. Based on the company’s positive operational experience from its pilot plant, Aalborg CSP was selected to design and deliver the large-scale solar technology with the aim of holistically satisfying the expanding Sundrop Farms greenhouses’ different energy needs at the lowest possible cost.

Besides offering a cost-competitive alternative to conventional energy technologies, the system will contribute to a greener future as it avoids the emission of at least 14,700 tons of CO2 annually. This is equivalent to 2,807 cars removed from the roads in a year.

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The Japanese solar market has grown significantly in the past few years as it races to meet the government’s goal of achieving 53 GW of solar PV capacity by 2030. Despite its relatively small landmass, generous government incentives have meant that Japan is among the world’s leaders in terms of total solar energy produced, with a total of 23.3 GW output in 2014. Earlier this year, the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation reported that solar power was set to become profitable, adding Japan to the ranks of G7 economies where the technology has become economically viable. The island nation has even gone so far as to create floating “solar islands” with thousands of water-resistant solar panels and has turned abandoned golf courses into solar power plants.

However, this boom is set to slow unless Japan can address two of the biggest challenges which are currently facing its solar industry: decreasing Feed in Tariffs (FIT) and an aging grid infrastructure. Here we discuss two ways in which Japan can use technology to address these challenges.

1.Increasing energy efficiency to cope with lower Feed in Tariffs

Introduced in July 2012, Japan’s FIT was famously generous and triggered a surge in solar investment in the country. By the end of March 2015, the amount of installed solar power in Japan more than tripled compared to pre-FIT levels. However, 2015 marked the end of those premium rates. In April last year, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) confirmed its decision to cut the country’s solar FIT by 16%, reducing the rate from ¥32 ($0.26) per kWh to ¥27 ($0.22) per kWh. The cuts have been triggered by a maturing market that has seen solar costs for operation and maintenance fall.

As FITs decrease, operators will need to look for new ways to lower costs and increase efficiency. Developments in technology, such as more effective 1.5 kV inverters, will enable the voltage to increase by up to 50% compared to the industry standard 1.0 kV, thus decreasing system losses. Additionally, this 1.5 kV 4MW inverter provides four times the power density of industry standard inverters, enabling four inverters to be replaced by one. This results in OPEX savings of up to 3% and significant CAPEX savings due to the need for fewer inverter stations, therefore generating lower installation and maintenance costs. This 1.5 kV technology is set to transform the cost, scale and efficiency of solar power conversion.

2. Smart plant control systems to cope with an aging grid infrastructuresolar-japan-2

One of the main challenges facing Japan’s solar power industry surrounds its integration with the aging grid infrastructure. Part of the problem lies in the relatively small size of Japan’s power grids and the lack of compatibility between regional power utility grids. Such has been the pace of Japan’s solar PV growth over the past three years that around 17.5 GW of FIT-approved PV projects now risk cancellation due to insufficient grid capacity. Handling the surges in solar power, which result from clear weather, can also be a major challenge for solar power producers and the utilities they supply. In fact, Japanese power companies have cited the volatility of the electricity supply as a reason for refusing to accept new solar power suppliers.

It’s therefore crucial for Japanese suppliers to have the ability to reliably and consistently meet Japan’s strict grid and utility industry standards. In order to do this, consistent power output is essential. Plant control systems, such as GE Power Conversion’s SunIQ, can coordinate all the inverters installed in a solar farm, helping to maximize power and control the power output provided to the grid.

The SunIQ system was developed within the “GE Store”–where GE’s experts around the world connect to share knowledge and ideas across different sectors. It was originally born out of the plant control system used in the wind industry, meaning the system is proven and reliable.

In cloudy conditions, SunIQ can automatically raise the power output of inverters to allow the total power output to remain at the required level. Similarly, it will make sure inverters react in a coordinated way to changing grid conditions such as helping to even out the base load at the peak times. This type of technology enables high-speed integration between the plant control system and inverters, allowing operators to execute commands faster, maximizing the efficiency.

Despite these challenges, the next few years could see a definite, but gradual, shift in Japan’s energy mix, with solar power taking over from fossil fuels and nuclear. This is exemplified by the fact that by March 2016, Japan plans to close 2.4 GW of oil-run power plants. By using technology to overcome the challenges the industry faces, another boom in solar could be just around the corner for Japan.

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SMA Solar Technology AG (SMA) is furthering its support of the Latin American solar market with a new PV subsidiary in Brazil. SMA Brazil conducts all sales, project planning, service and technical training for the entire country, with the support of regional subsidiary SMA South America, located in Chile. It offers SMA’s entire product portfolio of residential, commercial and utility-scale solutions and global standard service packages to meet the increasing demands of all segments of this fast-growing PV market.

“SMA expects a strong growth in solar installations in Brazil in the coming years. With our new subsidiary in Itopeva/Sao Paulo we will support our domestic and international customers to benefit from the market development. SMA’s industry-leading solutions for all applications and system sizes will help catapult Brazil into a top solar market,” explained SMA Chief Executive Officer Pierre-Pascal Urbon.

Brazil is also an attractive PV market because it offers federal energy contract auctions, net metering and tax exemptions on the consumed credits generated by net metering (in most states). Moreover, droughts in recent years have highlighted challenges with the country’s dependence on hydroelectric power, with millions of consumers affected by power outages and electricity rationing. Because of these factors, solar power is an attractive option that is expected to stimulate economic development and stabilize electricity prices.

“While SMA Brazil will focus on all PV market segments, the most relevant one currently—in terms of size and potential—is utility-scale. It continues to attract international developers, which in turn helps develop the PV supply chain while spurring the growth of distributed generation in Brazil,” said Daniel Rosende, managing director of SMA South America. “We are already supplying SMA solutions for every PV market segment in Brazil and participating in major utility-scale projects locally.”

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The U.S. Department of Energy announced $21 million in new funding to lower solar energy deployment barriers and expand access to solar energy to all Americans. The Department is making $13 million available to help states take advantage of falling solar prices and maximize the benefits of solar electricity through energy and economic strategic planning. This new program will offer technical and analytical support in the development and implementation of solar energy deployment plans. An additional $8 million under this funding opportunity will support research on solar energy innovation and technology adoption patterns in order to increase understanding of solar deployment barriers and other “soft costs.”

As more communities across the country look to solar energy as a source of clean, renewable electricity to meet their economic goals, the funding announced today will help lower barriers to solar energy deployment for states and regions across United States. It will also increase understanding of how and why solar innovations are adopted throughout communities to enable expedited development moving forward.

“As the cost of solar technology continues to fall, it’s more important than ever that we lower the other barriers to solar deployment—soft costs,” said David Danielson, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy. “The funding announced today will provide technical and analytical assistance to states in setting and meeting their renewable energy goals. This initiative will leverage decision science and solar datasets to build our understanding of how and why solar technologies are adopted to make it faster, easier, and more affordable for families and businesses to choose solar to power their daily lives.”

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Today 4th of February 2016, the biggest Concentrated Solar Power Plant of the world, located in Ouarzazate, Morocco, is being inaugurated. The Solar Power Plant NOOR I in the south of Morocco, located 10 km from the city of Ouarzazate, has been inaugurated today with the presence of the King of Morocco, the Spanish Ministers Jose Manuel García Margallo y Jose Manuel Soria, and distinguished Spanish and Moroccan authorities.

The event was presided over by King Mohammed VI of Morocco, and brought together political representatives and executives from the constructor companies, among them the President of SENER’s engineering and construction group, Jorge Sendagorta, accompanied by the Project Manager of NOORo I at SENER, Verónica Rosello, and the representative of the Steering Committee of NOORo I, Santiago García, also from SENER; the Vice President of ACCIONA, Juan Ignacio Entrecanales, and the General Manager of the Industrial Department of ACCIONA Infrastructures, Ramón Jiménez; and the President of TSK, Sabino García, the General Manager of TSK, Francisco Martín, and the TSK Thermosolar Director, Andrés Cuesta.baja2

NOOR I, with a nominal capacity of 160 MW of electric power, and a capacity for energy storage in molten salts of 3 hours at maximum power, is the first solar energy project that maximizes the operating hours of the day, adapting to the peak hours of the Moroccan electricity market.

The construction of this plant is of vital importance for the sector within and outside the region. For the 160 MW it occupies 450 hectares and consists of 400 parabolic loops. In its construction some 1,400 workers have been mobilized, of which 70 per cent are local labor and the rest foreign technicians.

Saudí ACWA Power is the sponsor of this project. Aries Ingeniería y Sistemas has been the Owner´s Engineering of ACWA Power, and the construction in the form of the turnkey was conducted by a consortium of three Spanish companies Acciona, TSK and Sener. With this plant Aries is positioned as an engineering leader in the North African region and in solar power plants with energy storage.

SENER, ACCIONA and TSK make up the construction consortium with the turnkey contract, or EPC, for NOORo I, a high-efficiency modern power station. With 160 MWe of power and 3.5 hours of thermal storage it will supply 500 GWh of solar power per year, enough to meet the demands of 135,000 homes. NOORo I will avert annual emissions of 140,000 metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.baja3

In addition to NOORo I, SENER is a participant in the other two thermosolar phases of the project, NOORo II and NOORo III, in the same turnkey construction consortium. The three thermosolar plants are to provide a total of 510 MWe of power. All of them will be equipped with thermal storage systems, enabling them to continue to produce electricity in the absence of solar radiation. As a matter of fact, the time with the greatest demand for power in Morocco is nightfall, so the integration of these facilities in the Moroccan electricity system will be one of optimal efficiency. Altogether, they will avert annual emissions of 470,000 metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.

It is important to highlight that local input to the project is totaling as much as 30% of the construction work, as the constructor companies, including SENER, are strongly committed to the Ouarzazate community and to the Kingdom of Morocco; both workers and suppliers from the area are being employed, and have been ever since the start of the NOORo I first phase.

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NV Vogt Philippines Solar Energy One, Inc. inaugurated the Surallah solar power plant in Mindanao/Philippines last Saturday. The plant with a capacity of 6.23 MWp was commissioned in November 2015 and is the largest one operating in Mindanao to date. The project was developed by nv vogt and its joint venture partner ib vogt GmbH, based in Berlin/Germany. ib vogt GmbH was the off-shore EPC contractor, working together with its local partner ADV Builders as the on-shore EPC. The funding for the construction was provided by Armstrong Asset Management (AAM).

Covering an area of about 8 hectares, the 23,520 installed modules will generate over 9.5 GWh per annum – or sufficient electricity to power the monthly needs of 8,740 households*1. Lifetime carbon dioxide (CO2) savings generated by the plant compared to fossil fuel generation alternatives are calculated to be around 180 million tonnes*2.

The project development and permitting has been an extensive process. Construction of the plant was rapid – taking less than 2 months from when the first posts were rammed until the last module was installed, due the excellent infrastructure and cooperation of all project participants.

nv vogt is developing and constructing several projects in the Philippines and Southeast Asia together with its joint venture partner ib vogt. At the moment, solar power plants with a capacity of around 16 MWp are under construction, while a pipeline of 150 MWp is also under development. Vivek Chaudhri, Director of Philippines operations, said “with the building of the Surallah plant, we have now demonstrated our ability to produce a world class solar production facility locally. We are committed to further development and to being a significant player in the local solar market. We are focused on Mindanao and will come up with a specific plan for that part of the country.”

Armstrong and nv vogt are continuing their efforts to develop more solar projects in the county and are currently working together to complete an additional 45 MW of solar projects in the Philippines. While the Surallah project marks the milestone of many firsts today, it is only a collective first step towards a cleaner, greener future in the Philippines.


*1 Based on the average household consumption of 90.54 kWh / November 2015 in Surallah, South Cotabato, Philippines,

*2 Based on the average production of 0.76 kg CO2 emissions per kWh from electricity generation by diesel fuel, 161.386 pounds of CO2 emissions per million British thermal units (Btu) by diesel fuel, considering a heat rate of 10,334 Btu per kWh

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Solar energy company PROINSO has announced it will open seven offices across Central America.

PROINSO will open offices in Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.

The expansion into Central America will increase PROINSO’s presence to 26 offices worldwide and bolster its team by over 50 members local to the region.

Pablo Gonzalez, Regional Head for PROINSO USA, commented, “We are delighted to be extending PROINSO’s operations into Central America. We believe our new colleagues have the local knowledge and skills to help us flourish within this market.”

Fraterno Vila, Head for PROINSO’s team in the region, added, “Our team of engineers have a proven track record for delivering over 140 MW of solar projects in Central America. Clients will benefit from PROINSO’s world-class assessment in equipment selection and strong relationship with manufacturers.”

In May 2015, PROINSO supplied 3MW of SMA Sunny Tri Power 24kW Inverters to a rooftop project in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. To date, this is Latin America’s largest PV rooftop project.


Enerray, a company 100% controlled by Seci Energia (Maccaferri Industrial Group) through Enerray Usinas Fotovoltaicas, has won the Enel Green Power bid related to the construction of a new solar farm situated in the region of Ituverava, Brazil.

Construction of the solar farm, which is located in the State of Bahia in Brazil’s northeast, began in December 2015 and will have a total installed capacity of 254 MWp. Its estimated annual energy production will be around 500 GWh and the plant is scheduled to enter into operation by the end of 2017. The solar farm is expected to integrate single-axis trackers that allow the photovoltaic modules to vary their orientation during the day, depending on the position of the sun. This is the largest solar power plant to be built by Enel Green Power and will undoubtedly help meet Brazil’s fast-growing electricity demand. According to latest data, construction in this country is expected to grow at an average rate of 4% per annum up to 2020.

We believe that Brazil, a country in which our Group has been undertaking industrial activities for over 50 years, represents a great opportunity in the near future: in fact, it is market that offers considerable growth perspectives in both the medium- and long-term. Enerray aims to become a benchmark leader in Brazil’s renewable sector. Starting to build up the country’s largest solar farm is an achievement that makes us very proud and shows how important Brazil is for us”, commented Michele Scandellari, Enerray’s CEO.

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The final round of projects awarded by the Department of Energy have turned South Africa into one of the most dynamic markets worldwide, and its local PV energy modules are expected to play a key role in its development. According to Enertis, an international firm specialised in providing consultancy, technical assessment and engineering services to the solar PV energy sector, the South African solar market has become a mature industry, making a robust contribution to the creation of much-needed energy capacity, local employment and a competitive renewable energy environment, thereby attracting investment from major international players.

South Africa’s DoE has recently taken steps to address the energy supply crisis in the country and has boosted the allocation of renewables projects. According to Enertis, in the specific case of solar PV energy, if the first three rounds had resulted in the allocation of 1,484 MW, only a further 813 MW have been selected for round 4. In addition, an accelerated or extraordinary round has been announced which will secure a further 1,800 MW from various technologies ahead of the anticipated round 5.

The evolution of the REIPP Programme has followed a path where projects selected have grown in size (75 MW projects are now the norm whereas almost 50% of the projects in Round 1 ranged from 5 to 20 MW). They have also become very competitive in terms of price and local content. Round 4 prices have reached some of the lowest levels hitherto seen worldwide, and local content values stand at an average of around 64%. Read more…

Article published in: FuturENERGY October 2015

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