ABB concept to revolutionise concentrating solar power plants

ABB has launched a new concept for turnkey concentrating solar power plants (CSP) based on a low-cost, highly efficient and highly scalable technology that uses considerably less material, land and water than any other CSP technology.

Concentrated solar systems reflect sunlight, usually with mirrors, to heat liquids and produce steam to generate electricity.

The ABB-Novatec Solar concept can be used to generate energy in a wide range of applications including stand alone or hybrid power plants, as fuel savers in existing power plants, in desalination and district cooling plants, and in industrial processes that require steam.

This is achieved through an innovative solar boiler design for direct steam generation based on linear Fresnel collector technology. Instead of the curved mirrors of a parabolic trough, the collectors use flat glass mirrors to reflect solar energy onto a receiver in which water is vaporised directly to produce superheated steam at temperatures of up to 500 degrees Celsius and a pressure of 100 bars.

By using standard materials such as sheet plates and glass mirrors, the automated mass production of key components in locally erected production facilities, a fast and accurate assembly process, highly efficient land use, and a robotic cleaning system that uses very little water, the cost of building and operating the plants is kept exceptionally low, features that offer huge potential for global deployment.

“I was really impressed by the technology and its simplicity. This cost-effective solution and the very low amount of water needed, make it particularly suitable for installations in Algeria and all African countries experiencing difficult climate conditions,” said Bennaceur Fateh, expert engineer at Sonelgaz CEEG, a state-owned utility in charge of electricity and gas distribution in Algeria.

A plant in Australia demonstrates the versatility of the concept and when completed in early 2012, the 9.3MW plant will be the world’s first solar boiler contributing steam to drive the turbines and helping reduce carbon emissions.

In addition to its role as engineering, procurement and construction (EPC), ABB will also supply the electrical and control equipment for the plant and provide the all-important grid connection to ensure the safe and reliable delivery of the electricity generated to the power grid.

ABB already has an EPC concept for photovoltaic (PV) power plants, and has successful delivered 26 plants with a combined capacity of more than 120 MW in the past nine months alone. The largest of these plants has a generating capacity of 39 MW.

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