Bill Gates-backed CSP group hits 1,000° C; Terraform buys more Spanish CSP plants

Our pick of the latest solar thermal news you need to know.

US CSP group surpasses 1,000° C using greater reflector accuracy

U.S. CSP technology start-up Heliogen has achieved temperatures exceeding 1,000° C by improving the reflectiveness of CSP tower arrays, the company announced November 19.

Heliogen's technology uses cameras and advanced computer vision software to align heliostats more accurately and increase solar efficiency.

Backed by Bill Gates, Heliogen has shown its high-temperature CSP technology can replace fossil fuel plants for industrial process heat, the company said.

A number of research groups are raising the temperature limits of CSP plants to increase system efficiency and tap into the industrial heat market. In one example, the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) is developing a centrifugal CSP receiver which has already achieved particle temperatures of 965°C at the receiver outlet.

California's Heliogen eventually aims to reach temperatures of up to 1,500°C, allowing it to split carbon dioxide and water to make fuels such as hydrogen or synthesis gas (syngas).

Heliogen is working with Parsons Corporation, a multi-industry engineering group with over a decade of experience in developing solar thermal projects.

"We look forward to bringing Heliogen’s breakthrough technology to scale with our industry partners,” Michael Chung, Vice President of Energy Solutions, Parsons Corporation, said.

Yieldco Terraform buys two 50 MW CSP plants in Spain

Renewable energy yieldco Terraform Power has agreed to buy two operational 50 MW CSP plants in Spain for a total equity price of 94.1 million euros ($103.7 million), the company said in a U.S. stock market filing November 15.

Both the plants feature nine hours of storage capacity and are located near Terraform's other CSP assets. The plants have around 19 years of remaining regulatory life under the Spanish market framework.

In 2018, Terraform acquired five 50 MW CSP plants in Spain through a takeover of Spain’s Saeta Yield group. The Extresol 1, Extresol 2, Extresol 3, and Casablanca plants are located in Extremadura, south-west Spain while the Manchasol 2 plant is located in the central Castilla-La Mancha region.

Terraform's latest transaction is scheduled to close in Q1 2020 and is expected to generate returns on equity beyond the company's target range of 9%-11%, it said.

Credit Suisse Energy Infrastructure Partners recently purchased a 49% stake in 250 MW of Spanish CSP capacity from ContourGlobal at a price of 134 million euros. The five 50 MW plants are situated in south-west Spain and came online between 2009 and 2012.

ContourGlobal, a UK-based power plant investment group, purchased the plants from Spain's Acciona last year. The price paid by Credit Suisse was almost double the net investment made by ContourGlobal.

Spain's CSP plants generated a record output of 2.8 TWh in the first half of 2019, some 19.3% higher than the historical average and accounting for 2.4% of national power generation, according to data published by grid operator Red Electrica.

The record output signals improved operations and maintenance (O&M) efficiency for Spain's CSP plants. Installed CSP capacity is around 2.3 GW and new build activity halted in 2012 after the Spanish government introduced sales taxes and removed subsidies.

Terraform operates over 4 GW of global renewable energy capacity, including 2.8 GW in US, 146 MW in Canada, 948 MW in Europe and 197 MW in other regions.

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