Morocco's first CSP tower plant enters final test stage; Abengoa boosts EBITDA but revenues fall

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Morocco Noor III tower plant nears completion after synchronizing to grid

Spain's Sener has completed the first synchronisation to grid of ACWA Power's 150 MW Noor Ouarzazate III (Noor III) central tower plant in Morocco and will soon start final tests before commissioning, Sener announced September 26. The Noor III plant is equipped with 7.5 hours of molten salt storage capacity and is expected to be commissioned by the end of 2018.

Noor III is the third CSP plant in the Noor Ouarzazate complex and the first tower plant. The 160 MW Noor I and 200 MW Noor II parabolic trough plants are already operational.

Sener is responsible for the basic and detailed engineering of Noor III, the supply of thermal storage system equipment, engineering and construction of the solar field and molten salt receiver, and decommissioning of the plant.

The Noor I and Noor II plants use Sener parabolic trough technology and the Spanish company was part of the turnkey build consortium for those projects.

"Noor Ouarzate III synchronization is the last milestone before delivering the plant to ACWA and MASEN [Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy]," Anas Raisuni, Sener's Managing Director for Morocco, said.

"With its visionary investment in solar power, MASEN has secured a clean, sustainable and manageable power supply for Morocco, while developing the national industry,” Raisuni said.

Morocco's renewables procurement process has been a key driver of CSP deployment in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Morocco has set a target of 40% of installed capacity from renewable resources by 2020, rising to 52% by 2030, equivalent to 6 GW of new capacity.

Following ground-breaking stand-alone CSP projects, Morocco now looks set to help pioneer hybrid PV-CSP development through its Noor Midelt project.

Morocco has launched a request for proposals for two hybrid solar plants at Noor Midelt, which will each have a gross CSP capacity of between 150 MW and 190 MW and include storage capacity. The two plants will be built by different developers and technology can be parabolic trough or tower while the exact PV capacity must be defined by the bidder.

Design innovations and a favorable development framework should see Morocco hit its lowest prices for the hybrid PV-CSP Noor Midelt project, a MASEN official said in April.

Abengoa revenues fall; EBITDA climbs on cost savings

Revenues in Abengoa's engineering and construction business in the first half of 2018 fell by 24.4% on a year ago, to 458 million euros ($530.9 million), the company announced September 30.

Abengoa filed for Chapter 11 and 15 bankruptcy protection in 2016 and has sold off certain assets to reduce its debt pile. In September 2016, the company signed a restructuring agreement with financial creditors and investors.

Abengoa's cost reduction plan helped triple EBITDA in its engineering and construction business in January-June, to 32 million euros.

"The increase in EBITDA is mainly due to continued reductions in general expenses and increase in profitability in certain projects under construction," the company said.

Abengoa booked in new projects for a total value of 977 million euros in the first half of 2018, for projects in the United Arab Emirates, Chile, Spain, United Kingdom, Mexico and Peru and other countries. The total backlog was 1.9 billion euros at the end of June.

Abengoa has reduced its gross financial debt to 4.6 billion euros, mainly due to the sale of a 25% stake in Atlantica Yield. Gross debt was 5.6 billion euros at the end of June 2017.

"Further [debt] reductions are expected in the short term with the sale of the remaining 16.5% stake in Atlantica Yield. Out of the 4,649 million euros of gross financial debt, 1,150 million euros correspond to debt of companies classified as held for sale," the company said.

Total group EBITDA was 87 million euros in the first half of this year, compared with 16 million euros in the first half of 2017, which included 52 million euros in restructuring expenses.

Key ongoing CSP projects for Abengoa include ACWA Power's 700 MW DEWA CSP plant in Dubai and the 110 MW Cerro Dominador plant in Chile.

The giant DEWA CSP project will require a total 14.2 Billion AED ($3.9 billion) of investments. The project consists of three 200 MW parabolic trough systems supplied by Spain’s Abengoa in a contract valued at $650 million, and a 100 MW central tower plant supplied by U.S. developer BrightSource.

In April, Saudi Arabia's ACWA Power signed an Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) contract with Shanghai Electric, a major Chinese power company, to install the project.

In July, Spain's Acciona and Abengoa resumed construction of the 110 MW Cerro Dominador CSP plant after receiving a notice to proceed (NTP) from project owners.

The Cerro Dominador plant is a tower design with 17.5 hours of molten salt thermal storage capacity. Abengoa is acting as technology partner for the engineering and construction project. The plant will be joined with an operational 100 MW PV plant to form a 210 MW hybrid solar energy complex.

Shouhang acquires 100 MW CSP project in Gansu province

China's Shouhang IHW Resources Saving Technologies has agreed to acquire the 100 MW Guohua Yumen Molten Salt Tower CSP Project in Gansu province, China, according to media reports.

The Guohua Yumen project is one of 20 projects being developed under China's Commercial Demonstration Pilot Program. Original developer Guohua Power pulled out of the project in February, along with three other demonstration projects.

The plant will now be renamed the Yumen Shouhang 100 MW Demo Project. Construction is due to begin in October and the plant is due to be completed in October 2020, the reports said.

China is to implement in December the world's first design standards for tower CSP plants, according to a stock-market announcement from China Energy Engineering Corporation (CEEC) last month.

The new technical standards will include the "latest design concepts, requirements and technical level" for solar tower plants and they will play an important “guiding role” in China's first batch of CSP plants, CEEC said.

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