Two identical 50-MW parabolic trough plants with thermal storage in Cadiz, in the south of Spain, began operating this January. The Valle 1 and Valle 2 projects (Figure 7) built by Torresol Energy—a joint venture between Abu Dhabi–based Masdar and Spanish engineering and construction firm SENER—are capable of generating 160 GWh per year, producing power for up to 7.5 hours per day, even when there is no solar radiation.

7. Twin hot oil plants. Valle 1 and Valle 2, two concentrating parabolic trough plants with thermal storage, began operating in Cadiz, in the south of Spain, this January. Courtesy: SENER

Construction of the plants, which required 4,500 workers, began in December 2009. SENER, which led the engineering, procurement, and construction contract for the projects, said the two plants use a solar field of 510,000 square meters (0.2 square miles) equipped with cylindrical SENERtrough parabolic trough collectors. The technology concentrates solar radiation on a central collector pipe through which thermal oil is run and which is fitted with a high-precision optical sensor that monitors the sun’s movement from east to west. The hot oil is used to vaporize water, which, by means of expansion in a steam turbine, drives an electrical generator that injects energy into the grid.

“It is worth mentioning that, due to the financial strength of Torresol Energy’s partners, SENER and Masdar, the Valle 1 and Valle 2 projects were financed through seven Spanish commercial banks in 2009 for a total financing of EUR 540 million, despite the global financial crisis,” Torresol told POWER in January.

—Sonal Patel is POWER’s senior writer.