Jorge Chapa

SEVILLE'S SOLAR POWER TOWER

by , 05/21/07

spanish solar tower, seville green electricity, Sevilla PV, Europe’s First, Solucar, photovoltaics, solar powar in Spain, Seveille Solar power tower

Rising out of the Andalusian countryside like a gigantic obelisk, a 40 story concrete tower surrounded by fields of photovoltaic panels is is the first stage of Europe’s first commercial solar power station , which recently went into operation in a sunny region outside Seville, Spain. The eye-popping spectacle bears more than a passing resemblance to Sauron’s Mordor Lighthouse in Lord of the Rings – only shiny, happy and sunny, rather than dark and fiery. Dumb analogies aside, there’s no way that our meager words do justice to the sheer awesomeness of the project, so you’ll just have to check out the photos and video below.


The first stage of the solar power station, known as PS10, is a 300ft tall tower surrounded by 624 solar panels which will produce enough energy to power 60,000 homes. There is also a secondary component, known as Sevilla PV, which is a photovoltaic power plant composed of 154 panels, which will generate enough electricity for about 1800 homes.

Here is how the tower works: the solar panels, a 120m2 mixture of mirrors and photovoltaics, track the sun throughout the year, reflect the energy of the sun to solar receptor at the top of the tower. Water passes through pipes at the top, and is heated enough to turn it into steam by the solar receptor, which in turn passes through a series of turbines to produce electricity.

spanish solar tower, seville green electricity, Sevilla PV, Europe's First, Solucar, photovoltaics, solar powar in Spain, Seveille Solar power tower

It is a sight to be seen. The area around the tower becomes so bright, that it actually illuminates the water vapor and dust that is in the air. It becomes necessary to wear sunglasses while you are there. Indeed, the image with the sunlight being thrown into the air? it’s not photoshoped.

This tower, while not a new technology (see CESA-1), is part of a series of projects whose final aim is to provide enough green energy for 180,000 homes, or most of the population of Seville. The final project, able to produce over 300MW, will include a series of towers, two more of which are being built, and standard photovoltaic power plants, as well as a mixture of newer parabolic solar collectors which will be installed at a later stage. The entire power plant will be operational by 2013. And here’s the most impressive part. The entire development, once it’s operational, will generate zero greenhouse gas emissions.

+ Plataforma solar de Abengoa (spanish)

+ Solucar

+ CESA-1

+ Power station harnesses Sun’s rays @ BBC

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51 Comments

  1. tonyc November 17, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    From an economical point of view:
    This power plant will take decades and many of them to recover the cost of construction. The solar tower proposed in Australia will take centuries.

    From a “keep the electrons flowing and save the planet” point of view:
    This is awesome!

  2. vbm July 25, 2008 at 9:35 am

    Its amazing how the widely source of energy – the sun – has for long not been exploited to greater magnitudes. The Seville’s Solar Power Plant is a clear example of how the people of the world with the diverse cultural and economic statuses can unite in the Solar Energy harnessing venture and BRING down the prices of other forms of energy which have since become more exploitative than helpful.

  3. JWG April 25, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    how did you get your photovoltaic panels and mirrors to follow the sun to absorb the most sunlight?

  4. chuck norris February 11, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    i like solar energy. :)

  5. Lauren January 25, 2008 at 10:03 am

    How much will this cost?

  6. Howard Menzies January 24, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    Just as climate change is caused by a number of factors (motor vehicles, beef cattle, coal-powered generators) then this project is one of the alternatives – there is no one magic bullet which will solve the problem of increasing demand for energy whilst decreasing the effects of climate change. Wind power, tidal power, solar power (in all its various forms), co-generation (e.g. natural gas raising steam, driving a turbine, driving a generator -successfully used in Australia where it provides all the power, air-conditioning and domestic hot water for two adjacent and very large hotels) should all be considered, rather than coal or atomic generators. Well done, Spain!

  7. Sharna January 23, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    I think its a greta idea- But would never work in England due to weather.

  8. Tim January 7, 2008 at 7:29 am

    @Jack: I’ll bet it was voted against in some ridiculous Californian proposition.

  9. Jack January 5, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    20 years ago or so, a similiar plant was built in the California desert between Vegas and L.A. in Barstow. It was taken off line years ago and is simply sitting out there not being used? Does anyone know why? I never forget driving to Vegas and seeing that tower glowing so brightly you could not look directly at it. Last I heard it was being used as a infa red observatory. With oil at $100 a barrel you would hope somebody would turn the place back on. Also 20 years ago Cal Edison announced they had developed a new type of photovoltaic, it used hunderds of small glass balls imbeded in rolls of foil, haven’t heard any thing about it since it made the front page of the L.A. Times.

  10. bryant December 1, 2007 at 3:45 am

    Will it really kill birds? Will the birds be able to sense the heat and intense light and steer away? Imagine if we could harness all the forces of nature and combine them for our complete energy needs: Wind, tidal, hydro, geo thermal. What a wonderful it could be.

    F off BP, Shell, Exxon, Conoco and OPEC. This is the future. We have grown tired of fighting to line your pockets.

    Don’t sell the technology to Dubai PLEASE! The will buy it and bury it, kind of like what GM did with the electric EV car in California.

  11. Tom November 30, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    We’ve had one of those plants here in California for many years if they haven’t shut it down since the last time I was out there. It’s just east of Barstow off I-40 in near a little place called Daggett in case someone wants to see the process in action some time.

  12. Bernie68 November 30, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    I bet this was the place that showed up in the movie “Sahara” with William H. Macy,
    Matthew McConaughey (as Dirk Pitt) and Penélope Cruz — from 2005. The movie was
    not so good, but I remember this place or something very similar to it.

    >

  13. Reki November 30, 2007 at 3:49 am

    “Why nobody says that it will work only in summer?”

    Well there is still over 9 hours of sun in Spain during the winter compared to around 15 in the summer so it’s a 40 % decrease but I’d say that it’s still working, just with a smaller power output. And why the difference would have to be done by burning coal?

  14. Rob November 24, 2007 at 2:09 pm

    Why nobody says that it will work only in summer? and inwinter uor dear Spanish freinds will be burning coal? And what is the cost of kwh generated?

  15. Ouchie November 1, 2007 at 5:37 pm

    This project is wonderful. However, birds who are lured by insects drawn to the light burst into flame when they fly in front of the receiver point.

    Kind of a shame.

  16. Colin L Beadon September 4, 2007 at 10:05 am

    If we can design a few water heating solar panels to make steam, then we should be able to couple them to a home piston driven steam engine driving a generator. You can get very small steam engines in the UK, and they require much less steam and are less costly than a small turbine. They should be much quieter also.

  17. Jason August 31, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    I just recelty saw this on the television. This is wonderful. I fully intend to bring my governor’s (AZ) attention to this. Arizona has way to much sprawl and we use too much AC in the summertime. There is plenty of land out here for something like that for virtually the entire state.

  18. Shannon Dupont August 22, 2007 at 9:13 am

    Bravo, finally somewhere, someone, has acheived more than idealogy- I applaud the finished product- and all the visionaries with the discipline to bring the project to production.

  19. Oscar July 30, 2007 at 10:13 pm

    The Solar Platform of Almeria, this emerging thecnologies are in deep investigation.
    Show this page…
    http://www.psa.es/webeng/techrep/2004/ATR2004_ing.pdf

    A lot of wonderful technologies based on solar energy is in ingestigation now.

    Water desalation, chemical cleening, weater heat for industry, experimentation with high temperature materials, coke gasification, hydrogen production…
    Multiple solar technologies. Photovoltaic, Stirling, Fresnel, solar tower, parabolic troughs, …

  20. Mark June 16, 2007 at 10:02 pm

    Hmm, I was under the impression that this power tower used a molten salt to store the solar energy which then was stored in an energy well. In this well, water then is piped through in a closed loop system and used for the standard steam/electrical convesrion.
    I think someone needs to use the energy wells to power banks of Sterlings which need an even heat source to maintain efficieny. The heat into a rotational force without the loss assiocated with the liquid / stream conversion used in generators is a more effecient use of the stored energy..

    Desalination plants using this energy conversion anybody? Floating platforms on the ocean piping fresh water to land.

  21. Daniel June 8, 2007 at 11:59 am

    For those who keep tearing these environmentally friendly ideas down: Do you want to continue living in a world strangled by CO2 emmisions? Do you want to remain dependant on oil corporations and burning coal?We need to look to innovative ideas like this to improve the Earth for generations to come. I pity those like George W. Bush Jr. who continue to cause chaos, death, and destroy the environment just to line their pockets. Have they no humanity? Monsters have no humanity.

    I tip my hat off to those who find ways of providing power while decreasing and/or eliminating harmfull emmisions.

  22. Tim June 3, 2007 at 12:16 am

    Awesome. Whatever the faults at least someone is DOING something.
    Costs will come down, efficiencies will improve.
    Bravo Spain…
    http://timdotnet.net/wiggumdaily/2007/06/03/sevilles-solucar-solar-power-tower/

  23. Hussam A-L. Olama May 29, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    Hello;
    I saw on the BBC’s documentary on this project, that the solar collectors are being cleaned by a portable tool producing steam. I wonder if you could tell me the contact data for this tool’s manufacturer. I need a tool like it to clean solar collectors in Egypt. Would appreciate your help. Thanks.
    Hal Olama
    ===================================
    Hola; Vi en el documentary del BBC en este proyecto, de que que los colectores solares están siendo limpiados por una herramienta portable produciendo el vapor. Me pregunto si podrías decirme los datos del contacto para el fabricante de esta herramienta. Necesito una herramienta como ella limpiar los colectores solares en Egipto. Apreciaría tu ayuda. Agradece. Hal Olama

  24. Umar May 27, 2007 at 1:05 am

    Many say it is not new, at least it is being done to a big scale and being expanded to new reigions. Australia has a limitless amount of solar energy in waiting, but limited water. Using recycled water/desalinated for the plant and reprocess the steam from its vents and you have a system that can be built on.
    Try using the Browns Gas method from the heat, to start the turbines.
    Sure these generators are not new but good science has to start/grow from someware.

  25. marilyn May 25, 2007 at 9:48 pm

    love and miss sevilla andam so proud to have lived there and know so many people there! what a great leadership role this wonderful city has taken! Sevilla has the best quality of life on the planet, and now that quality of life is even better! vaya con Dios, my wonderful people!!!

  26. Motorcycle Guy May 25, 2007 at 9:21 am

    I wonder how often they will have to replace the mirrors.

  27. Matt May 25, 2007 at 8:52 am

    This system is not entirely “zero emissions” – construction and water both consume fossil fuels – but it is going to produce massively more energy than it consumes. Well done Spain for doing something. People who say you should have used x technology instead are missing the point – investment in this type of technology is all good – don’t knock it, build something better yourself!

  28. royalestel May 24, 2007 at 11:52 am

    This is a combination of mirrors and solar panels. A good Idea. Double plus, you could use the solar panels as reflectors to the tower center. I.E. Capture specualr and diffuse light. That, I think, is an innovative and clever idea. But once more, anyone have any idea how long this would last?

  29. Vik May 23, 2007 at 4:26 pm

    “nice project , but who needs that monstrous tower? shall we pray to empty hole and conrete stick?”

    This is a solar power plant. Not some kind of religious symbol. What are you talking about?

    And also this is clean renewable energy. Who cares if this not new technology. The world needs a lot more of these kinds of power plants.

  30. Jan Gorlach May 23, 2007 at 11:40 am

    nice project , but who needs that monstrous tower? shall we pray to empty hole and conrete stick?

  31. olda May 23, 2007 at 4:51 am

    No greenhouse gas? Very nice and environmental friendly!
    The idea is not new but works.

    But at the other hand, the producing of photovoltaic panels isn’t environmental friendly! The pollution of the producing process is so far from the solar power plant but exists.

    There is no cooling tower or any cooling facility. Yes, maybe the steam formed back to liquid water in the tower’s pipeline, and go back to the boiler. (heater)
    It could be a closed, isolated system.

    Does this powerplant need to cleaned water? In the heating process, yes, indeed.
    The mirror cleaning process? Yes, indeed. Therefore this plant needs a water treatment system, against the scale, but the closed system deeds this treatment one time. This power plant works daylight, i think there is no puffer for nightlong steam storage.

    Thre is no any pollution, there is no residual polluted tools, clothes or heating element with atomic radiation, thre is no CO2 exhausted, there is no railway or shipping heating element transportation with burned fossiles.

    In the long run, this power plant is clean. Viva espana!

  32. Ben Schiendelman May 23, 2007 at 12:27 am

    Batman: At those temperatures, it doesn’t matter, because the black paint will boil off anyway. :)

  33. Gio May 23, 2007 at 12:12 am

    Ugg … As pointed out … This is SO not new … even if they are referring to using liquid salt to store the heat … as they now do at the Solar II in California … its still not new … I expect more from the BBC …

    Batman … the receivers are black … or at least designed to maximize radiation absorption.

  34. Batman May 22, 2007 at 11:36 pm

    Wouldn’t the tower be more effective at receiving the reflected light into heat if it were black, requiring a fraction of the mirrors?

  35. AnAlias May 22, 2007 at 9:41 pm

    They mentioned that they did not produce any greenhouse gasses.. but Water Vapor is a greenhouse gas, it can act as the “glass” for the greenhouse, trapping heat. One picture showing the turbines shows a jet of steam being let off, And from the aerial shots, I did not see any cooling towers. Of course they could be using the steam to wash the mirrors….

  36. Bondwalker May 22, 2007 at 7:06 pm

    Niiiice =)

  37. Mathias May 22, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    sebnem: This is Spain, Europe. People have tap-water.

  38. Lynn May 22, 2007 at 2:09 pm

    The eye-popping spectacle bears more than a passing resemblance to Sauron’s Mordor Lighthouse in Lord of the Rings – only shiny, happy and sunny, rather than dark and fiery.

    Hehe, that had me laughing :D

    Anyway, about the project itself, this is gonna be amazing when it’s done. Hope to see more of this around the world!

  39. Ben Schiendelman May 22, 2007 at 2:06 pm

    sebnem: Have you ever seen a stirling engine generate power?

  40. Warren Brooke May 22, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    It is greatly encouraging to hear investors from Dubai are interested in solar technology. Kudos to harnessing a rich resource far more powerful and plentiful than oil.

    As for a wayward beam from a misdirected reflector, the only point with dangerous temperatures will be the focal point of the entire array. The power of the sun reflected from one panel is quite small.

  41. sebnem May 22, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    How much water is needed to keep the mirrors clean (, hence effective)? Oh please do not ask the kids that need to walk miles to get drinking water, whether this is an “amazing” or “great idea”.
    A little Stirling engine in each of the 60,000 home would have costed less and be more controllable and effective

  42. MaxxSteele May 22, 2007 at 11:55 am

    Don’t think this is a “New” idea.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_One
    Solar One was completed in 1981

  43. eco car loving gordon May 22, 2007 at 11:18 am

    I think large scale installations of solar power are wonderful. It not only gives us hope but proves that it is possible to create green energy.

    g
    http://www.cheapgreencar.com

  44. UFO May 22, 2007 at 9:08 am

    Great idea !

    I hope that kind of stuff will be more and more built all over the world.

  45. Qaiss May 22, 2007 at 6:10 am

    thats realy amazing, they should consider biulding it in Kuwait..

  46. itco ivestment May 22, 2007 at 5:00 am

    dear sir
    we are company in U.A.E Dubai we want more information about this project and if can send on my e-mail photo we looking fo make good work with you becouse we are very interested in this technology.

    Best Reg….

    Itco Investmen – Dubai – U.A.E

  47. Barry May 21, 2007 at 3:05 pm

    Oh its real alright, watch the video.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/media/avdb/news/science_nature/video/92000/bb/92383_16x9_bb.ram

    “I wonder what would happen if the beam accidentally got misdirected to an airplane passing overhead” eek Dr Evil’s Solar Death Ray, that Archimedes has a lot to answer for.

    Correction: They are not “photovoltaic panels” they are mirrors which direct the suns energy onto a mega solar hot water heater.

    Thought it was about time they used the French solar furnace technology.
    http://www.imp.cnrs.fr/foursol/1000_en.shtml

  48. Brian May 21, 2007 at 1:21 pm

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I have linked to this on my blog. Peace.

  49. kent beuchert May 21, 2007 at 12:53 pm

    Enviromission’s solar power tower is a much better design and far more cost effective. And can operate as a base-load generator, which this really cannot do. This system thus has a lot of the horrible randomness and variability and unreliability of wind power, which wrecks havoc on utility grids.

  50. Sam May 21, 2007 at 11:03 am

    This looks too surreal to believe… like just another vaporware CAD rendering of someone’s crazy idea. But the BBC tells me otherwise!

    I wonder what would happen if the beam accidentally got misdirected to an airplane passing overhead… or a bird for that matter :-x

  51. royalestel May 21, 2007 at 10:29 am

    I thought you were going to write the most impressive aspect is that this system would last 80 years. How long would it last?

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