Concentrated thermodynamic solar power

Published: 19 Jan 2018 By eni

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Versatile technology for producing electricity and heat

Concentrated solar power (CSP) is a technology at once both ancient and innovative. Legend has it that it was devised more than 2,000 years ago by Archimedes, whose “burning glasses” supposedly helped him to defend the city of Syracuse – keeping the Romans at bay and incinerating their ships. 

Eni is investing in CSP facilities due to the versatility of the underlying technology, which can turn solar energy into both electricity and thermal energy.

It also provides a low-cost way of storing heat, allowing the system to continue to function even when the sun isn’t shining. Designed by Eni in collaboration with Milan Polytechnic University and MIT in Boston, a pilot plant will soon be installed in Gela (Sicily), followed by a full solar farm in Assemini (Sardinia).

How do CSP plants work?

Solar power plants are covered in reflectors that concentrate the sun's energy on to pipes through which flow a mixture of molten salts. This light energy is then used to produce either heat or electricity. One of the main advantages of concentrated thermodynamic solar power is that energy can be stored for when the sun isn't shining – at night or on very cloudy days, for example.

An efficient collector that is easy to assemble anywhere

The CSP plant’s parabolic solar collector, developed in partnership with Milan Polytechnic University and MIT, offers highly-efficient energy recovery with low investment costs. This is because:

  • only a few components are needed to build it (easy to source or ship in)
  • it is simple and quick to assemble
  • it can be installed anywhere using local labour.

A giant sunflower: the CSP at OMC in Ravenna

Eni's commitment to energy transition also includes concentrated solar power. The report from this year’s OMC, the biggest showcase of energy projects in the Mediterranean area, features CSP alongside guayule bushes and bio-oil.

Gela, Assemini and the first experiments

The pilot CSP plant we are installing in Gela will produce all the steam needed on site. It will be carbon neutral and comply with all safety protocols to ensure it is risk-free and properly managed. In Assemini we are planning to install 32 collectors on approximately 2,200m2 of reclaimed land, with an installed capacity of 1 megawatt of thermal power plus an hour of heat storage.

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