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Seville sun shines on Arizona

July 29, 2010 – 10:04 am

I’ve written before about solar power, and the no-brainer that it is here in sun-drenched Andalucia. One of the foremost companies in the field of industrial-sized, cutting-edge solar technology is based in Seville. Abengoa has a massive platform in Sanlucar La Mayor, just east of the city, which in three years’ time will produce enough energy to power over 150,000 homes (300 mega watts). That’s a lots of fridges and air-con units (I can’t even think about heating when it’s this hot!)

Plataforma Solucar is an extraordinary, other-worldly sight, visible from the Huelva-Seville motorway, with two towers casting glowing beams of light diagonally down towards the ground. These are the first commercial solar power towers in the world (PS10 and PS20). The latest plant at Solucar is Solnova 1, which started operating in May, which uses parabolic trough technology (where a liquid in a special heat-absorbing pipe is heated by the sun’s concentrated power). All use technology developed by Abengoa.

So, when President Obama announced recently that Abengoa had been chosen to build the biggest solar power plant in the world, in Arizona, it was a a major cause for celebration. Solana will produce 250MW of power, saving 475,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions every year. The plant, which will use parabolic trough technology like Solnova’s, will be able to store six hours’ worth of energy, so it can continue to produce electricity even on cloudy days, and after the sun has set. It will be five times bigger than the biggest planta solar (solar plant) at Solucar. The US government has pledged 1150 million euros to the project. Not only is it a technological triumph for a local company, the new contract offers a much-needed economic shot-in-the-arm for this area – it will create 1,600 jobs.

As well as having its corporate headquarters in Seville, Abengoa is building the Campus Palmas Altas (CPA) technology park in the south of the city. It will be a centre for excellence in research and development in environmental technology, coming up with the most innovative and ground-breaking ideas in the fields of energy efficiency, producing renewable energy, and sustainable building. The Campus itself, designed by British architect Richard Rodgers, is also intended to be a model of these key areas. The building recently won a 2010 European RIBA prize.

Seville is on the world stage not for flamenco, Carmen or Semana Santa, for once, but for something a bit more 21st-century; the latest clean, green technology, developed at Solucar, in Andalucia, to be used in the US. On a truly grand scale.

PS I’m off to England for my summer holidays (rain! clouds! cool breezes! yummy puddings!) so andalucia.com’s work experience person, Sarah Matthews, will be guest blogging for month of August. Don’t forget the suncream, and see you in September.

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