Solar thermal energy: a world first in France

5 minutes of reading

In Llo, a town in the Pyrenees mountains, France just installed a thermodynamic solar power plant.

This is a world first. Led by Ello, a private company, this 60-million-Euro “steam engine” works using Fresnel mirrors. These mirrors are much more affordable than their curved counterparts and installed parallel to each other to focus their rays in the same way as a parabolic dish. These rays heat a tube carrying pure water which turns into steam. This steam moves through a turbine, powering an alternator which generates electricity.

In total, no less than 12 kilometres of pipelines and 95,200 mirrors were installed on a surface area of 33 hectares. The goal is to heat the water to 286°C and 70 bars to produce 9 MW of electricity to sell to the network!
This power plant is the first of its kind in terms of size and storage capacity. Its nine 120m3 tanks store steam up to 80 bars for four hours: enough to distribute power even after sundown or during consumption peaks.

Construction started in 2016 and was just completed at the end of 2018. In addition to creating a positive energy balance in the Haute-Cerdagne region, this plant should serve as an example to export the technology in desert regions like the Middle-East, North Africa and South America.