One of the world’s largest solar farms that uses “power tower” technology — Abengoa’s “PS20” solar farm just outside of Seville Spain — will start generating clean power in January, and the company is making the final adjustments on the solar farm’s massive mirrors over the next few weeks, according to the Guardian. Solar power tower farms are a next generation solar thermal technology that use large mirrors to concentrate light and heat water at a massive centralized tower.
Abengoa’s PS20 solar power tower plant will initially generate 20MW of electricity, and will be a significant proving ground for the solar power tower technology. What the Guardian article doesn’t mention is that while this technology is being tested in Spain, Abengoa has actually decided to only tackle the more traditional solar trough technology in the U.S. As Abengoa’s senior adviser to the U.S., Fred Morse, says, that’s because the policy framework and utility contract needs of the U.S. market require that the solar thermal technology be “proven,” “bankable” and “reliable.”
So solar power tower technology is still in the early stages. But one startup in the U.S. is aiming for this market: Oakland-based Brightsource Energy is looking to build solar power tower technology in the deserts of California. The BrightSource team worked on the original solar trough technology built in the ’80s and ’90s and says that solar power tower technology offers “higher concentrations,” “higher temperatures,” and “higher efficiencies” compared to solar trough. Update: Keely Wachs, BrightSource’s Senior Director of Corporate Communications says that BrightSource’s 900 MW deal with PG&E is an indicator that the US policy framework and U.S. utilities are supporting power tower technology.
Images courtesy of Abengoa.