Italy’s Enel Green Power Planning Two Huge Solar Power Plants

Italy is looking to get a solar energy boost from Enel Green Power, which just announced plans to construct two large concentrated solar power (CSP) plants. But Italy’s still got a ways to go to catch up with the CSP world leaders.

Solar thermal power plants have their supporters and skeptics. They offer utility-scale power from solar energy, providing the opportunity to produce more electricity from clean, renewable energy than would be produced on rooftops alone. But they come with a pretty hefty price tag, too.

After years of development, such plants are starting to get off the drawing board. Gemasolar recently announced that the first 24/7 solar thermal power plant in the world was completed in Spain, a 19.9-MW concentrated solar power (CSP) plant. Now, Italy’s renewable energy giant Enel Green Power (EGP) has announced plans to build two CSP plants of a similar size.

While EGP currently generates about 80% of its power from wind energy, it is looking to increase its solar energy share now that utility-scale solar is becoming cheaper and more viable, and supported by the EU.. (and I imagine Italy’s rejection of nuclear power doesn’t hurt either).

The two projects EGP announced on Friday are a 30-MW plant and a 25-MW plant in Italy. Both projects rely on EU funding, which is not yet guaranteed but expected.

Concentrated Solar Thermal Power (CSP)

What is CSP, you ask? CSP plants “use mirrors or lenses to concentrate a large area of sunlight, or solar thermal energy, onto a small area.” The concentrated light is turned into heat that is then used to drive a heat engine (often steam turbine) that is connected to an electrical power generator.

Over 1 GW of power capacity from CSP plants are online around the world so far, but as I said, the option is picking up.. steam. CSP plants with a total capacity of about 17.5 GW are currently under construction worldwide.

Spain currently leads the world in power capacity from CSP plants (582 MW) and the U.S. is second with 507 MW. While the U.S. is leading in power capacity from plants under construction (8.7 GW), Spain is second (4.46 GW), and China is third (2.5 GW). ENG’s announcement certainly steps up Italy’s figures in this arena, but the country still has a ways to go to catch up to these three CSP leaders.

Article by Zachary Shahan, appearing courtesy Earth & Industry.

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