Sustainable energy technology and systems developer Abengoa announced on September 30 that half of Europe’s largest solar power facility is now online and pumping out enough clean, renewable energy to meet the needs of some 104,000 households, and that it had secured financing to complete the second half of the project.
Two of four 50-megawatt (MW) parabolic concentrating solar power (CSP) plants – Solaben 1 and Solaben 6 – are up and running at the Extremadura Solar Complex (ESC), Abengoa announced in a press release. The news is especially encouraging given Spain’s financial and economic woes, and the toll they’ve taken on Spain’s once world-leading solar power market and government support for renewable energy.
Europe’s largest CSP facility on track
The concentrating solar power technology employed at Extremadura entails installing parabolic mirrors set on ground mounts that track the sun’s movement. The parabolic mirrors concentrate incident solar radiation, focusing it on receiver tubes through which runs a heat-absorbing fluid. The fluid reaches around 750 degrees Fahrenheit (399ºC). This heat is then used to transform water into steam, which drives a turbine that generates electricity – electricity free of polluting carbon or other greenhouse gas emissions.
Abengoa management also announced it had closed on €200 million (~$270 million) of non-recourse bank funding, “which will free up the equivalent amount of equity invested in these projects,” and enable the company to bring the remaining 100 MW of ESC’s CSP planned solar power capacity online. Closing financing also marks “the first step in the company’s recently announced divestment plan,” according to the press release.
Supported by generous subsidies, Spain’s solar power market quickly grew to be the world leader in the early 2000s. With the collapse of Spain’s once high flying real estate market, all that came crashing down in the wake of the 2008-2009 property crash and economic recession, one from which the country has yet to recover.
Fiscal austerity imposed per an EU bailout of Spain’s largest banks set the government casting about for ways to narrow its deficit and shore up its finances. Generous solar and renewable energy subsidies, which had reached €24 billion (~$32.4 billion) were curtailed. More recently, the Rajoy government added to this by proposing to charge consumers a fee for electricity generated by solar panels and other forms of renewable energy and used on-site.