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Germany: first experimental solar tower power plant up and running

Germany is not blessed with a particularly sunny climate, yet it offers the ideal location for research and development into solar-thermal power plant technology. In Jülich, in the western part of the country, Germany's first solar tower power plant has been up and running since the beginning of 2009. The plant was built by Kraftanlagen München, an Alpiq subsidiary. The new technology installed in Jülich shall be marketed worldwide by building 10-50 MW facilities in sun-rich countries.

Milestone in the move towards CO2-free electricity generation

At the end of 2008, following a two-year project development, planning and construction phase, general contractor Kraftanlagen München completed the prototype solar-thermal power plant in Jülich, in Germany's North Rhine-Westphalia region. The plant went into operation at the beginning of 2009 – initially as a gas-fired plant, since it was still too early for uninterrupted sunshine. In the spring of 2009 regular operations switched to sun, and a trial run was launched for the next six months. From 2010 the individual components and overall system will undergo further development. The new technology shall be marketed worldwide in the form of 10-50 MW facilities in sun-rich countries.

How does the solar tower power plant work?

On a plot of land totalling 17 hectares, 2,150 sun-tracking mirrors (heliostats), each measuring eight square metres, will be installed on an area of around eight hectares – the equivalent of around twelve football fields. These heliostats direct sunlight to a heat exchanger (receptor) housed in a 60-meter high tower. The solar rays heat the air inside the receiver to a temperature of 680°C. The hot air is then used to operate a heat recovery boiler in which steam is generated at a temperature of 485°C and a pressure of 27 bars, which in turn drives a turbine with an electrical capacity of 1.5 MW. The annual generation of electricity will be sufficient to supply around 350 households.

Strong partnership and broad-based support

Kraftanlagen München realised the project in conjunction with Stadtwerke Jülich (owner of the power plant), the German Centre for Aerospace Research and the Solar Institute Jülich. The Fedreal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Reactor Safety, the Ministry of Economy and Energy of North Rhine-Westphalia, and the Bavarian State Ministry of Economy, Infrastructure, Transport and Technology support solar tower research. The aim of the cooperative agreement between the partners is to further develop the applied technology and methods, and enhance competitiveness.