Masdar backed solar plant gets $760m from Europe

A Spanish solar power plant backed by Masdar receive $760m from European institutions, allowing the project to move to the next stage.

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A Spanish solar power plant backed by Masdar yesterday received US$760 million (Dh2.79 billion) in financing from European institutions, allowing the project to move to the next stage. Torresol Energy, a joint venture between Masdar, Abu Dhabi's clean energy company, and SENER, a Spanish engineering firm, declined to name the financing institutions. But it said the investment would allow it to move to the next stage of a project involving twin concentrated solar power plants - Valle 1 and Valle 2 - in Andalusia, Spain.

The plants will have generating capacities of 50 megawatts each, or enough to provide electricity to 80,000 homes a year. Concentrated solar power involves the use of mirrors to focus the sun's energy on to a central point to boil water. The resulting steam is then used to drive turbines. "Valle 1 and Valle 2 will be leaders in the delivery of concentrated solar power and a major contribution to the region's power supply," said Enrique Sendagorta, the chairman of Torresol Energy.

Mr Sendagorta said the project would help prevent 90,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere by avoiding the need to build conventional power plants. Experts believe the renewable energy sector will need tens of billions of dollars in investment each year to produce credible alternatives to fossil fuels. Masdar officials said the company would continue to look at investing in solar power throughout the "sun belt", consisting of countries in the MENA region, southern Europe and south-west US.

"We've just spent the past six months defining our 10-year plans and the plan is relatively bold," said Frank Wouters, the associate director of Masdar's power division. The Government is aiming to build 1,500mw of renewable energy by 2020. A central feature of the Spanish solar project is in its energy storage technology, which will use molten salt to store the solar plants' electricity output as heat for up to 7.5 hours.

This is the second Spanish solar project undertaken by the joint venture between Masdar and SENER. The first is Gemasolar, a 17mw project scheduled to start up next year.