The world’s first utility-scale solar thermal power plant based on Linear Fresnel technology has started construction in Murcia, Spain.

The 30MW Puerto Errado 2 plant represents a breakthrough in solar power, as a large-scale low-cost plant, and also as the largest direct steam generator. The plant uses proprietary solar field technology developed by Novatec Biosol AG, a company majority owned by Transfield Holdings.

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The Novatec solar technology has wide application, suitable in gas and coal fired power plants as a fuel saver and in industrial facilities requiring process heat. It uses less material than existing solar thermal technologies; fabrication of the solar field components is highly automated and installation is straightforward. Moreover, the plant uses much less land and water than existing plants; all resulting in a more cost effective generation of solar thermal energy with less environmental impact.

Once operational, the 30MW plant will generate enough power to supply approximately 20,000 households and displace electricity generation that would have otherwise produced some 49,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases per annum.

Swiss energy utilities, Elektra Baselland and Industrielle Werke Basel have invested in the project together with Novatec and given the go ahead to commence construction. The official groundbreaking took place on 23 April 2010. This followed detailed evaluation of the existing 1.4 MW Puerto Errado 1 demonstration plant, which commenced selling power to the Spanish grid in March 2009. On completion in 2012, the PE2 will also benefit from a Spanish Government feed-in-tariff.

PE2 will use 300,000 square metres of flat mirrors to capture sufficient sun energy to run two 15MW GE turbines.

Novatec is pursuing a number of projects internationally, including fuel saving projects in conventional fossil fuel power plants.

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