A physicist's dream come true: the most important industrial photo voltaic thermal plant in Europe | Technology | EUROtoday

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The business is a devourer of assets, some as scarce as water and fossil fuels, and a polluter. However, changing a manufacturing unit into an energy-independent heart, with out CO₂ emissions and that returns the equal of the availability used to the watercourses, is feasible and worthwhile. It was the proposal of the physician in physics and professor of thermodynamics on the University of Seville Valeriano Ruiz 5 years in the past. Today, the dream of this benchmark within the clear vitality sector, which didn’t survive (he died in 2021), is a actuality and a technological mannequin: the most important industrial photo voltaic thermal plant in Europe, put in by the corporate Engie within the beer from the multinational Heineken in Seville.

The photo voltaic thermal installations, which occupy eight hectares of the manufacturing unit land, have simply begun to function and have diminished by greater than half the consumption of fossil gasoline for the thermal vitality mandatory within the manufacturing course of (cooking and pasteurization), which represents 65% of its demand. They hope to exceed 85% after this yr. The different 35% of vitality required is electrical, primarily for bottling and cleansing, and so they already generate it via their very own means: a photo voltaic plant in Huelva and one other biomass plant in Jaén.

The brewing firm's international funding in sustainability is 30 million euros within the final two years. The equal of two thirds of this quantity (20,476,668 euros, of which 13,369,356 come from European Feder funds) has been the price of the plant constructed by Engie in Seville, “Compensa. The numbers come out,” says Tomás Madueño, an engineer on the multinational that commissioned the challenge.

The technique differs from that of different corporations that restrict themselves to buying extra vitality from renewable sources to offset their emissions balances with out lowering the usage of polluting sources. “An offset strategy based on short-term operational emissions impacts says nothing about the long-term effect,” warns Jesse Jenkins, a professor on the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment and co-author of a research by the Princeton University revealed in Joule.

Wilson Ricks, a researcher at this US college, provides: “There are solar projects that do not compete with energy based on fossil fuels, but with other solar projects that could have been built in their place.” In his opinion, “the most cost-effective approach for a company to declare net zero emissions is based almost entirely on acquiring enough solar or wind energy to meet its annual consumption.”

Sagrario Sáez, director of sustainability at Heineken, agrees. “If the plan is to compensate, but you continue producing with non-renewable energy, production and emissions increase.”

With this premise of zero emissions from renewable sources adequate for your complete manufacturing course of, the Seville plant was born. The eight hectares of parabolic mirrors focus daylight in a central tube (collector) that, in contrast to the amenities to generate electrical energy via this technique, as a substitute of artificial oil, comprises solely water.

This liquid, as defined by Francisco Corral, Engie engineer, reaches 210 levels and is pressurized. From there it goes to a secondary circuit that, via exchangers, reduces the temperature to 160 levels, which the plant must cook dinner the cereal and pausterize the product. The energy of this direct course of is 30 thermal megawatts (MWt) per hour.

But this technique would solely enable its use in optimum circumstances. To make the most of all of the photo voltaic thermal vitality generated in the course of the hours of photo voltaic radiation and preserve the plant at full capability at night time or on days with out solar, a warehouse was created to preserve 1,115 cubic meters of sizzling water. There are eight big tanks insulated with 200 millimeters of carbon metal able to offering 68 MWt.

In the tanks, the water is distributed in layers of various temperatures, completely monitored to launch solely the decrease one when, cooled by mechanical means, it reaches the required levels. A posh system of tortuous pipes, designed to resist the enlargement produced by warmth, straight connects the water from the collectors and the saved water to the plant.

The precept is just like that of the well-known home photo voltaic water heaters, so it appears straightforward to assume that its industrial utility was apparent. However, your complete plant, distinctive in Europe, needed to be generated from scratch. “The technology existed, but not on this scale,” explains Corral whereas pointing together with his hand to the amenities equal to eight soccer fields.

Nor was it achieved earlier than as a result of it was mandatory for the accounts to steadiness, for the funding, no matter environmental and social compensation, to be worthwhile, one thing that the rise in vitality prices has accelerated. The plant was inbuilt two years, virtually twice forward of schedule, in a course of hampered by deadlines to entry Feder funds and which concerned 150,000 hours of labor.

Engie is now the builder, proprietor and operator of the plant. In 20 years it would switch it to its shopper, Heineken, 5 years earlier than the top of the theoretical helpful life of the present set up. “There could be more,” Corral clarifies. “That is the duration for electricity generation plants, which withstand temperatures of up to 350 degrees.”

That helpful life is essential to the profitability of those amenities. In this sense, Stefaan De Wolf researcher on the KAUST Solar Center and lead creator of a piece revealed in Science, warns: “Deployed solar panels must have a useful life that lasts decades. Understanding degradation rates is crucial to establishing competitive pricing and warranties.”

View of some of the panels of the largest industrial solar thermal plant in Europe, this Tuesday.
View of a few of the panels of the most important industrial photo voltaic thermal plant in Europe, this Tuesday. PEPO HERRERA

And, along with the financial cause, there’s the environmental concern because of the technology of waste when vegetation develop into out of date. Sagrario Sáez assures that the zero waste and full recycling coverage agreed for your complete manufacturing course of may also apply to the brand new facility. The panels used are basically mirrors and don’t use the poisonous and scarce supplies of different methods, comparable to perovskite.

This challenge can be replicated, with totally different expertise and scale, on the Heineken plant in Valencia, which opens this February 28, in line with forecasts. But the creators of your complete system imagine that it’s relevant to any industrial course of that requires warmth for manufacturing and has land subsequent to the manufacturing unit, since distance is the primary degrader of the ability achieved.


Although the chosen system (concentrated solar energy or CSP) consumes a lot much less water than central tower vegetation, Valeriano Ruiz's dream was nonetheless incomplete. A brewery, by pure logic, is a water guzzler. In conventional methods, greater than three liters of this useful resource are required for every one of many remaining product.

The Seville manufacturing unit, the place water is oil, has managed to scale back this proportion to 2.6 liters for every liter of beer. Of this complete, most of it’s a part of the product that’s consumed (95% of a beer is water), half a liter evaporates within the course of and a part of the remaining is reused for makes use of aside from consumption. “Every drop counts,” highlights Sagrario Sáez. But the target was extra bold: get better 1.9 billion liters.

The technique on this case was to deal with nature's water reservoirs which have been deteriorated and made unusable by human motion. A channel, naturally, creates the equal of synthetic storm tanks, areas the place water from precipitation is saved.

On the Jarama River in Madrid, a former cement manufacturing unit had nullified a pure wetland by making a dam to forestall flooding within the plant. The manufacturing unit deserted the enclave and left the plug. The restoration of the pure area has revived the lagoon and animal tracks as soon as once more mark its shores. The identical technique has been utilized in a number of enclaves round Doñana. In the Valencian Albufera, the target was to remove kilometers of reeds, an invasive grass launched within the sixteenth century that alters the setting and dries it out.

The intervention in half a dozen pure areas has allowed the return to the basins of the tens of millions of liters of water deliberate with an funding of 1 million euros.

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