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solar tower

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The consortium formed by the engineering and technology company SENER and SEPCO III has completed the reliability test for the 150-MW Noor Ouarzazate III thermoelectric solar plant. It is one more step in the start-up of the facility, which is nearing commercial operation and final delivery to the client.

With this reliability test, which ran for ten straight days, Noor Ouarzazate III has demonstrated its ability to output its rated power to the grid under changing weather conditions, and even after sunset, thanks to its molten salt storage system, which can continue to produce electricity in the absence of sunlight for 7.5 hours. Over these 10 days, the plant output over 13.2 GWh to the grid. Once operational, the plant will be able to generate enough electricity to power 120,000 homes, with no atmospheric emissions of CO2.

At Noor Ouarzazate III, SENER is responsible for the conceptual and basic engineering of the plant, the detail engineering and for supplying the equipment for the thermal storage system. It is also responsible for the engineering and the construction of the solar field and the molten salt receiver, and for the comprehensive start-up of the plant. This is the second plant with a central tower and molten-salt storage system designed and built by SENER, which also provided its own technology, the 7,400 HE54 heliostats that constitute the solar field, the solar tracking system, the high-power receiver, with more than 600 MW, and the integrated control system for the receiver and the solar field. This plant is one of the first in the world to apply this configuration on a commercial scale.

Noor Ouarzazate III is part of the Noor solar complex, the largest on the planet, located in Ouarzazate (Morocco) and run by MASEN. In the aforementioned megaproject, SENER is part of the turnkey building consortium for the Noor Ourzazate I and Noor Ouarzazate II plants, both of which feature SENERtrough® cylindrical-parabolic trough technology, and Noor Ourzazate III, with advanced innovations with respect to those applied in Gemasolar, a plant designed and built by SENER which was the first in the world in commercial operartion to rely on a central tower receiver and molten salt storage technology.

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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.