Spain in July inaugurated another major concentrated solar power (CSP) power station. The 50-MW La Florida parabolic solar trough plant in Alvarado Badajoz (in the west of the country), increases Spain’s solar nameplate capacity to 432 MW—beating out the U.S., which produces 422 MW from solar installations.

Germany continues to lead the world in solar power capacity—though it has mostly photovoltaic installations. The German federal government said in late July that solar power increased by approximately 3 GW in the first half of 2010 as solar panel operators rushed to register installations before the feed-in tariff cuts (see “The Feed-In Tariff Factor,” also in this issue). According to the agency, newly installed solar capacity reportedly rose by 1.7 GW between January and May 2010, based on the analysis of the 85,000 applications received for solar installations during that period. The agency then received an additional 50,000 applications in June alone, which should bring the total of newly installed solar capacity to over 3 GW for the first six months.

In Spain, the La Florida plant reportedly covers 550,000 square meters, equal to the area of 77 soccer pitches. It is being billed as one of the largest solar projects in the world, but in size—as in capacity—it equals several parabolic solar trough plants already operating in that country, including the €300 million Andasol I, which came online in 2008. And it pales in comparison to bigger plans for Spanish CSP plants: Abengoa Solar, which is building Solnova I, plans to put four other 50-MW CSP plants on Solúcar Platform in Spain. It says construction is 50% complete on two other 50-MW parabolic trough plants: the Helioenergy 1 and 2 plants, in Ecija, near Seville, which are expected to enter operation in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

Abengoa Solar, which is making a push to make parabolic technology a mainstay, says that competition in the industry is heating up. Nearly 300 MW of CSP trough power are already in operation around the world, with 400 MW under construction and around 6 GW in development. Spain will lead the charge, it predicts, but the U.S. will follow closely behind. Installations are set to become larger and more sophisticated. Abengoa, for example, is involved in the U.S. government–funded Solana project, which expects to use 2,700 trough collectors covering roughly 1,757 acres.

In June, meanwhile, AREVA Solar, which acquired Australian company Ausra in February, broke ground on its fourth solar steam generator at the Kimberlina Solar Thermal Plant in Bakersfield, Calif., a plant that uses compact linear Fresnel reflector technology (Figure 4). The solar steam generator is scheduled to be commissioned by late summer.

4. Catching some arrays. This June, AREVA Solar broke ground on a fourth solar steam generator at its Kimberlina solar thermal plant in Bakersfield, Calif. The facility is the first of its kind to use compact linear Fresnel reflector (CLFR) technology in the U.S. CLFR technology generates 1.5-to-3 times more peak power per acre of land than competing solar thermal technologies. AREVA says it has pioneered several innovations at the facility, including generation of direct, superheated steam at 750F. With the fourth CLFR line, the company hopes to demonstrate optical, thermal, and control system advances leading to 900F superheated steam conditions. Courtesy: AREVA Solar