We’ve been keeping an eye on two large-scale solar projects under development by SolarReserve. The company has procured significant U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)  funding for its Crescent Dunes power project and the Rice solar energy project, both of which are interesting due to their  large scale and their use of molten salt storage technology. But as progress on those projects has been a little slow, Torresol Energy, a joint venture between the UAE’s Masdar and Spanish company SENER, has been quietly building a solar power facility in  Sevilla Spain that uses the same central tower and molten salt storage approach. Now that project, called Gemasolar, is up and running and is laying claim to the rights as the world’s first commercial-scale CSP plant featuring a central tower receiver with thermal storage capabilities.

The Gemasolar plant is said to be rated at 19.9 megawatts, so it isn’t quite as large as the 110 megawatt Crescent Dunes or 250 megawatt Rice project are planned to be, but it still boasts some impressive stats. The plant consists of 2,650 solar heliostats which are large, flat mirrors that track the sun’s movement across the sky. The heliostats sprawl across about 457 acres of land that surrounds a tall, centralized tower. The tower converts the light into heat, which is stored in liquefied salt for later use when electricity demands are high or when sun isn’t available.

image via Torresol Energy

Torresol claims its version of the molten salt storage system allows the plant to continue electricity production for up to 15 hours without any solar radiation. With this sort of storage capacity, the company believes its power plant could generate electricity 24 hours a day for several months and at night or during periods when daytime solar radiation is particularly weak.

Torresol is also responsible for  the Valle Valle 1 and 2 projects which are  currently under construction in Cadiz, Spain. These projects have a reported  generation capacity of 50MW each and also utilize the molten salt thermal storage technology. Those plants are expected to commence  commercial operations in late 2011.

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