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Company, University Lab Design Thermal Solar Collector

Central receiver tower at the Gemasolar plant (Torresol Energy)

Central receiver tower at the Gemasolar plant (Torresol Energy)

An engineering company in Madrid, Spain, working with a research group at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M), has designed a new central receiver for a solar thermal energy plant recently installed in Spain. Sun to Market is an engineering and IT services company in the solar energy sector that collaborated with UC3M’s Energy Systems Engineering research group.

The solar thermal collector acts as a central receiver of solar energy reflected from thousands of heliostats, mirrored solar panels that direct their energy towards the collection point. The solar energy heats a molten salt solution that retains heat and can generate electricity continuously, rather than at intermittent times when the sun is shining. Sun to Market and the UC3M researchers have also devised an enhanced method for energy recovery in the pumping of the thermal salts to the receiver, which the company and university have patented.

The receiver and energy recovery system part of the Gemasolar plant built by Torresol Energy in Seville, Spain. That facility has 2,650 heliostats distributed over 185 hectares (457 acres) that can run 15 hours per day without replenishment of solar energy, which translates to 6,500 hours per year. The plant is expected to have a net generating capacity of 19.9 megawatts, powering 25,000 homes and reducing CO2 emissions by 30,000 tons a year.

The Gemasolar design is the basis for a similar plant under construction in Tonopah, Nevada by the company Solar Reserve. The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project is expected to have a net generating capacity of 110 megawatts, powering some 75,000 homes.

Sun to Market is based in UC3M’s Science Park, a university-sponsored business incubator, which encourages collaborations between business and academic scientists. The company plans to start a joint lab with the research group to design, construct, and operate a prototype plant to test new initiatives before going live.

The company has already written simulation and management software for the Gemasolar plant. Since the company started in 2009, it has acquired two patents and opened offices in the U.S., China, and India.

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