Who would want Abengoa’s assets?

Abengoa bankruptcy: Who might buy the company's CSP plant assets in Chile, South Africa and the USA, or invest in Abengoa Yield? Photo: Mojave Solar Project, Abengoa

Abengoa bankruptcy: Who might buy the Spanish company’s CSP plant assets in Chile, South Africa and the USA, or invest in Abengoa Yield? Photo: Mojave Solar Project, Abengoa

By Jason Deign

Abengoa, the Spanish renewable infrastructure developer, is thought to be hunting buyers for assets, including a large amount of storage, as it faces bankruptcy.

The company filed for preliminary creditor protection a fortnight ago after failing to secure funds from investors led by Gonvarri Corporación Financiera. It now has four months to secure an agreement with creditors.

Given scale of the business, which employs 7,000 people in Spain and many more abroad, it is possible the company might be bailed out by whichever party wins general elections in Spain this December 20.

In any event, however, it seems likely the business will be forced to sell much of its project portfolio to offset debts that may amount to more than €20bn.

According to data from Abengoa’s website, that portfolio includes a total of 27 hours of molten salt storage tied to some 360MW of solar thermal plant generation, spread across three projects in South Africa and one in Chile.
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SolarReserve chases even hotter molten salt

SolarReserve, the solar thermal power plant developer, intends to dramatically increase the temperature of molten salt storage with a grant from the SunShot Initiative. Photo credit: Crescent Dunes, SolarReserve

SolarReserve, the solar thermal power plant developer, intends to dramatically increase the temperature of molten salt storage with a grant from the SunShot Initiative. Photo credit: Crescent Dunes, SolarReserve

By Jason Deign

SolarReserve, the solar thermal plant developer, is going after molten salt storage systems of more than 700ºC with a USD$2.4m award from the US government.

The award, announced last Wednesday, comes from the US Department of Energy SunShot Initiative’s Concentrating Solar Power: Advanced Projects Offering Low LCOE Opportunities (CSP: APOLLO) programme.

It will be used with matching funds from SolarReserve and other commercial partners to develop a new form of high-temperature ceramic receiver, according to Tim Connor, SolarReserve’s vice president of engineering and technology.

This “breaks through current temperature and performance barriers, while meaningfully increasing efficiency, energy storage capabilities and lowering capital cost,” Connor said in a press release.

The receiver technology should raise operating temperatures in molten salt power tower solar thermal plants by some 300ºC from a current maximum of around 565ºC.
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Abengoa: could molten salt do peaker job?

Abengoa solar thermal energy storage systems having proved successful in the US, the company is now marketing standalone molten salt storage systems as a replacement to gas peaker plants.

Abengoa solar thermal energy storage systems having proved successful in the US, the company is now also marketing standalone molten salt storage systems as replacements for gas peaker plants. Photo credit: Abengoa

By Jason Deign

Abengoa, perhaps best known for massive solar thermal plant such as Solana and Mojave, is pitching standalone molten salt storage systems and solar generation-connected thermal storage as a replacement for gas peakers.

The multinational infrastructure developer is already marketing standalone storage projects in the US, Abengoa confirmed in an interview with Energy Storage Report in the run-up to Energy Storage USA 2015 next week.

“Given the experience we have with existing plants [Solana has six hours of molten salt storage], thermal standalone storage is already at commercialisation stage,” said Amparo Pazos Cousillas, director of sales and marketing for Abengoa Solar in the US.
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Solar thermal energy storage loses its way

Does phase-change material storage have advantages over molten salt thermal energy storage for a concentrated solar power plant? Photo credit: Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, SolarReserve

Is phase-change material storage better than molten salt thermal energy storage for a concentrated solar power plant? Photo: Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, SolarReserve

Too much salt is not just bad for your health. It could also harm the likelihood of thermal energy storage (TES) cost reduction across the entire concentrated solar power (CSP) industry.

Right now, molten salt TES is seen as critical in justifying the high cost of CSP versus other renewable energy sources, such as solar PV or wind.

TES allows CSP, or solar thermal energy, to deliver stable, round-the-clock power, which is more valuable to grid operators than the intermittent generation provided by renewable alternatives.

But it is just possible that a growing preference for molten salt among CSP developers could hamper the chances of adopting more efficient and cost-effective types of TES.
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CSP benefits from energy storage

The new molten salt parabolic trough CSP demonstration plant in Massa Martana, Italy. Photo credit: Chiyoda Corporation

The new molten salt parabolic trough CSP demonstration plant in Massa Martana, Italy. Photo credit: Chiyoda Corporation

Concentrated solar power (CSP) has one key advantage over the ever-cheapening photovoltaic (PV) competition: the ability to directly integrate thermal energy storage (TES) and thus provide dispatchable energy.

It’s perhaps with this in mind that Italy’s Archimede Solar Energy and Japan’s Chiyoda are collaborating to build a parabolic trough demonstration plant that uses molten salt as both a heat transfer fluid (HTF) and thermal energy storage medium.
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US molten salt project gets green light

The US solar developer SolarReserve this weekconfirmed it has received the final Arizona State approval required to go ahead with its Crossroads Solar Energy Project. This aims to supply approximately 500,000MW annually of reliable, sustainable, zero-emission electricity to Arizona or California, enough to power up to 100,000 homes during peak electricity periods, says the company.

The project comprises 150MW of electrical generating capacity using concentrating solar power, plus 65MW of additional solar photovoltaic technology. Up to 10 hours of solar energy per day will be stored using the company’s molten salt power tower technology, says SolarReserve. Construction of the site, near Gila Bend, should begin late this year, or in early 2013.