A R+D activity integrated in Plataforma Solar de Almeria

Head of Unit:   Eduardo Zarza Moya

The Solar Concentrating Systems Unit (USCS) is one of the Plataforma Solar de Almería’s three R&D units and its staff is distributed between the CIEMAT facilities in Madrid and Almería. The Unit’s main purpose is to promote and contribute to the development of solar radiation concentrating systems, both for power generation and for industrial processes which require solar concentration, whether for medium or high temperatures or high photon flux.

This Unit consists of three R&D Groups:

The activities carried out within the USCS are in the framework of some of the main research lines which are defined as partial objectives:

  • Development of new components for concentrating solar systems, with better price ratio
  • Development of new experimental capabilities and simulation tools for characterization, analysis and diagnosis (optical, thermal, etc.) of this type of solar systems,
  • To launch and promote innovative actions related to concentrating solar technologies, pathing the way to technological improvements in the mid and long-term (such as demonstration projects, prospective and feasibility analysis, etc. ), and
  • To facilitate the development and consolidation of a national industry specialized in concentrating solar systems, by techno-scientific assessment and technology transfer.

The intense promotion and development activity of solar thermal power plants in Spain caused by the Royal Decree 661/2007 that continued during the years 2008 and 2009, suffered a period of uncertainty during the years 2011-2014, due to the changes in the legal framework that regulates the commercial activity of the solar thermal plants in Spain. This situation of uncertainties hit it’s pick in June 2013, with the elimination by the Spanish Government of the bonus defined by the Royal Decree 661/2007, replacing it with a “Compensatory Payment” that was defined a year later in function of the characteristics of each solar thermal power plant.
These legal changes immersed the sector in a profound crisis, forcing it to reduce operation and maintenance costs drastically, and in many cases, dramatically in order to survive.  This change of situation considerably reduced the collaboration requests from the industrial sector, which allowed us to devote a bigger effort to our internal R+D activities, always with the four objectives mentioned above, and without economizing any effort to perform those activities useful for the sector, even though we had to cover the costs with our own resources.
Within this line of support to the industrial sector two important activities must be outlined: the participation of different working groups on standardization which has been built up under the umbrella of diverse public and private initiatives, and an important participation in initiatives and projects aiming to obtain a better cohesion of the sector and line up with common objectives, funds and effort at a European level.
In the field of standardization, a pressing need of the solar thermal sector, the USCS is participating in all fora and Working Groups that have been created with this purpose:

  • The AEN/CTN 206/SC Subcommittee “Sistemas de Energía Solar Termoeléctrica”, created by the joint initiative AENOR, PROTERMOSOLAR, CENER and CIEMAT. Within this Subcommittee the USCS participates in its three Working Groups, devoted to: GT1:Plants, GT2:Components, and GT3: Thermal Storage Systems. Both GT1 and GT3 are coordinated by staff members of the USCS.
  • The Working Group of the STAMP project, created within the working frame of SolarPACES by initiative of the German DLR and American NREL for “Standardized Methodology for CSP Performance Prediction”.
  • The TC117 Technical Committee, created within the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) in 2012 to develop new standards at international level related to solar thermal plants.

Following with the policy of dissemination of knowledge, and in accordance with our desire to facilitate the development and consolidation of a strong industry, specialized in concentrating solar thermal systems, the USCS maintains an important activity in courses, seminars and events related to concentrating solar technologies and their diverse applications at both national and international levels. This dissemination task is very important to approach these technologies and their important benefits to society. Only through knowledge, will Society be able to defend and promote the use of these systems and technologies.
The high level of specialization of the staff members of this R+D Unit, together with the excellent experimental facilities and laboratories available, make possible a large range of activities, from basic research (this is the case of the new developments on optical coatings) to technological development (this is the case of the new heliostats).