Andasol 1 (at the back) and 2, Europe’s first parabolic trough power plants in southern Spain, generate two times 50 megawatts of electrical power and are the role model for the megaproject Desertec.
Photo: Paul-Langrock.de/Solar Millennium
Solar Power from the Desert
The Desertec project calls for large solar power plants to be built in the desert regions of Africa and Arabia that will supply Europe with energy. Receivers from SCHOTT are a crucial component.
Per year 360 days of sunshine. Up to 4,300 hours of sun. The largest source of energy on earth. Until now, it seems that the sun has been shining on the sand dunes of the Sahara without actually serving any real purpose. This is now due to change, however. Twelve well-known international companies are convinced that Europe’s energy future lies in the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East (the MENA Region). Representatives of these companies met in Munich in mid-July of 2009 to sign a “Memorandum of Understanding” on founding a Desertec Industrial Initiative Planning Company (DII). SCHOTT AG is part of this initiative with its subsidiary SCHOTT Solar, a company that manufactures an important technological prerequisite for the efficient use of solar energy: receivers for Concentrated Solar Power plants.
With this memorandum, an abstract vision has actually become a real project for the future. The consortium is seeking to generate approximately 15 percent of the electricity that Europe needs and cover a large share of the power demands of the producing countries with the help of a network of large solar power plants that are distributed all over the MENA region by the year 2050. This will not only allow for much higher energy security for European Union countries, but also holds immense development opportunities for the nations of North Africa and Arabia. The project is moving along at a fast pace, thanks in part to the huge echo in the international media. The planning company that will be attending to the analysis and development of the technical, economic, political, legal and ecological parameters and developing pragmatic plans for this ambitious project was founded in the fall of 2009.
The receiver tubes that are situated in the focal line of the trough-shaped parabolic mirrors represent the heart of solar power plants.
Photo: Paul-Langrock.de / Solar Millennium
The receiver represents the heart of a solar power plant. It is located in the focal line of a trough-shaped parabolic mirror and consists of a specially coated absorber tube made of metal that is embedded inside a vacuum-sealed glass tube. Both the glass tube and the absorber tube are exposed to severe thermal and mechanical stress. Especially the coating on the absorber tube that is only a few hundred nanometers thick must be able to stand up to severe shifts in temperature. Whereas temperatures inside the receiver climb to as high as 400 degrees Celsius, the thermometer drops to zero degrees and below at night in the desert. In order to be able to work efficiently, these conditions are not allowed to have any effect on the receivers for a period of at least twenty years. The latest receiver generation from SCHOTT Solar is designed to be able to handle the extreme operating conditions of solar thermal parabolic trough power plants. The mechanical and optical properties allow for the highest possible efficiency and durability.
“The Initiative represents a collective commitment to renewable energy sources and the will to take sustained responsibility for the future of our planet,” emphasized Prof. Udo Ungeheuer (left), Chairman of the Board of Management of SCHOTT AG, during the signing of the Desertec Memorandum in Munich in July 2009.
Photo: SCHOTT/J. Meyer
Super grid for EUMENA