In February, the Chilean Ministry of Energy and CORFO presented the international bidding process for the construction of the first concentrating solar power (CSP) power plant in Latin America. The Chilean government has worked to ensure the adequate conditions are in place to make CSP a competitive technology in Chile. The soft-financing loans, grants and public land in the Norte Grande, which the government will provide, combined with the dramatic recent drop in CSP prices, will contribute to bringing Chile to the head of solar technologies in Latin America.

The bidding for the 160-MW solar thermal plant in Ouarzazate (Morocco) has evidenced a great cost reduction in the solar thermal industry. The winning consortium formed by ACWA Power International, Aries Ingeniería y Sistemas and TSK presented the most competitive offer (US$190/MWh), 28% lower than the second best bid.

Various factors have contributed to the competitive pricing of CSP technology:

 

  • Knowledge of the solar thermal industry

    Aries' experience in engineering plant design and optimization of electricity production, as well as in the knowledge of solar thermal actors, has been instrumental in the price realized in Ouarzazate.

  • Economies of scale

    A 160-MW plant, compared to the “standard” 50-MW thermal plant dominant in Spain, has, to a large degree, lowered the final price of electricity.

  • Commitment to innovation in new technologies

    From the design of the first plants in the 1980s, the solar thermal industry has made notable advancements along the learning curve, thanks to new technologies. An example of the innovative nature of this industry is the HITECO project (a solar collector concept for high-temperature operations in CSP applications), which aims to overcome current limitations in the technology, redefining concepts and seeking flexibility in operating plants. The HITECO consortium unites industrial partners and research centers from Spain, Germany, Switzerland and the Czech Republic, which is coordinated by Aries Ingeniería y Sistemas. HITECO is developing a new concept, aimed at increasing the efficiency of parabolic devices, because the heat transfer fluid surpasses the current operating temperature of 400°C (752°F). This temperature increase to 600°C (1112°F), improves the overall performance of the cycle and thus the energy efficiency of plants with parabolic troughs.

Ouarzazate is a milestone for countries seeking to increase the percentage of renewable energies in their energy matrix but have not yet opted for compensation mechanisms for the development of the same. This is the case of Chile, which has figured that the price of electricity from a solar thermal project would be lower than in Ouarzazate, since Chile has the world's best solar radiation. In Chile, the declining prices of solar generation could make manageable renewable energies, able to respond to the local demand curve, an interesting alternative for the country.

For more information, visit www.aries.com.es.