The Spanish government confirmed plans June 27 for a 50-MW solar thermal facility in Alcazar de San Juan, a town in central Spain, only 40 minutes from the home of the famed literary character. The project, titled Termosolar Alcazar, is a joint venture between U.S. solar developer SolarReserve and Spanish renewable energy company Preneal.
The two companies won a competitive bid from the governing body, the region of Castilla-La Mancha.
According to a SolarReserve press release, the project will generate enough energy to power 70,000 homes. It will also create jobs; 4,000 workers will be employed in Spain and more than 2,500 in the U.S. during the construction period, estimated to take over two years.
“The project is scheduled to commence construction in early- to mid-2012 and has a 30-month construction period,” said SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith in an email.
The project will use a technology called molten salt concentrated solar, in which a storage tank full of a molten salt mixture stores the energy from the sun. In this design, the plant produces power through the night and inclement weather.
“SolarReserve's technology overcomes photovoltaic’s limitations by decoupling energy collection from electricity generation. We can store energy and deliver when the utility wants it, day or night,” Smith said.
Smith said the process takes advantage of a huge field of mirrors.
“Our plant captures and focuses the sun's thermal energy with thousands of tracking mirrors (called heliostats) in a two square mile field,” he said. “A tower resides in the center of the heliostat field. The heliostats focus concentrated sunlight on a receiver, which sits on top of the tower.”
Smith could not confirm the project’s costs, saying SolarReserve does not disclose costs for any project. He also did not know how much carbon dioxide the plant would remove from the atmosphere.
Perhaps most importantly, it’s still unknown what safeguards the plant will have against naive roaming knights looking to revive chivalry and defend the honor of Dulcinea.