Abengoa Solar, a unit of Spanish corporation Abengoa (ABG.MC), has begun commercial operation of a new 50-megawatts (MW) solar thermal power plant in Spain.
The company said Solnova 1's performance matches the theoretical output of the design, validating the potential of parabolic trough technology for capturing and converting the sun's heat into electricity.
Abengoa Solar built a smaller pilot plant in 2007. And the company has contracts to build two much larger plants in the US--one in California (250 MW) and the other in Arizona (280 MW).
Solnova 1 is made up of around 980,000 square feet (300,000 square meters) of mirrors that cover an area totalling approximately 280 acres (115 hectares). The plant employs technology which concentrates solar radiation onto a heat-absorbing pipe inside of which flows a liquid that reaches high temperatures. This fluid transfers its energy to the water vapor that reaches a turbo-generator, where it expands to produce electricity.
In September 2009, Xcel Energy (NYSE: XEL) selected Abengoa Solar to add concentrating solar power to an existing coal-fired power plant near Grand Junction, Colorado.