This 64 megawatt (MW) power plant is the first large solar thermal power plant to be built in 15 years and it will generate approximately 129 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of solar electricity annually. This will sufficiently cover the power requirements of 15,000 American households. “Nevada Solar One” takes up an area of 1.4 million square meters and is roughly the same size as 212 soccer fields. Acciona Solar Power Inc., a subsidiary of the Spanish Acciona group that is becoming increasingly active within the energy sector, has been responsible for building the plant and will operate it. Solar receivers from SCHOTT, the German technology group, are at the heart of “Nevada Solar One”.
“We are convinced that parabolic trough power plants are on their way to achieving a global breakthrough, thanks to Nevada Solar One. The technology has already proven itself and the costs of generating electricity will soon be competitive. Therefore, parabolic trough power plants will offer immense potential for generating power in an environmentally compatible and climate friendly manner. We are pleased that we were able to contribute the key component of this high-potential technology by supplying our receivers,” commented Professor Udo Ungeheuer, Chairman of the Board of Management of SCHOTT AG.
On the occasion of the informal meeting of the EU Environment Ministers in Essen, Germany, from June 1 – 3, Professor Ungeheuer called for more political support for solar thermal power plant technology. “The European Union should work towards establishing the necessary basic parameters so that Europe can one day be supplied with power from solar thermal power plants based along the Mediterranean. European companies are already the technological leaders in this area. The technology needed to transport power through the appropriate lines will become available. When it comes to protecting our climate, what we truly need is a strong political will at both the European and national level.”
Europe's very first commercially operated solar thermal power plants are currently being built near Granada, in Andalusia/Spain. Here, too, receivers from SCHOTT will be put to use. With a capacity of 50 MW each, the first two “AndaSol” power plants will each be capable of satisfying the personal electricity needs of more than 50,000 households i.e. more than 150,000 people. 30 additional power plant projects are already being planned in Spain, others in the southwest of the United States and other regions inside the Sunbelt.
Solar thermal power plants utilize solar energy to generate heat that is then converted into electricity. Parabolic trough power plants, such as “Nevada Solar One”, consist of a huge field of trough-shaped parabolic mirrors that concentrate sunlight onto specially coated absorber tubes (receivers) located along the focal line. Concentrated solar radiation is converted into heat inside the specially coated receivers. Then, a special heat transfer fluid flows through the receivers, which assumes a temperature of almost 400° Celsius (over 750° F) and is then pumped to the main power plant generator. It passes through several heat exchangers before it generates the steam needed to drive the turbines, as in conventional power plants.
Parabolic trough power plants have the lowest electricity production costs of all types of solar technologies. That combined with the extremely high efficiency gained through technological advancements from companies like SCHOTT, will soon give parabolic trough power plants the potential to generate electricity in regions inside the Earth’s Sunbelt at costs comparable to those of power plants that run on fossil energy sources.
“Nevada Solar One” is the first parabolic trough power plant to be built in 15 years. During this time, nine such power plants located in the Mojave Desert in California have been generating solar electricity with a total capacity of 354 MW. Even then, SCHOTT delivered the high quality special glass tubing for the receivers in these power plants. In 2004, SCHOTT developed a high-performance receiver of its own that offers substantially improved quality and has enabled the company to become the global technology leader. SCHOTT manufactures these receivers at its site in Mitterteich, Bavaria, Germany. Here, the company is able to leverage its know-how as a leading international manufacturer of special glass tubing. The company is currently building a second manufacturing site for receivers near Sevilla, Spain.