AREVA, the French-based, state-owned global energy company known for leading the world in nuclear energy has taken a big shining to solar technology lately — really big.
The company is constructing two solar plants in Rajasthan, India by 2013 that will together make the largest project of its kind in terms of power output on the entire continent of Asia.
The “project’s annual energy production will be 284,255 mWh/yr, producing power for 365,365 people,” an AREVA spokesperson told TPM via email.
The two plants will each be 125 megawatt capacity, and AREVA says together they will “result in the avoidance of approximately 557,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year compared to a similar sized coal-fired power plant.” Already, work has begun on the first plant, AREVA told TPM.
Like AREVA’s other solar projects, the plants will rely on concentrated solar power (CSP), or solar steam.
The technology works by using common materials such as wood and glass to create large fields of angled, sun-tracking mirrors that bounce sunlight onto a single central turbine filled with a reactive liquid, which becomes steam and in turn drives the power generators in the plant. That’s different from more common photovoltaic solar power, in which solar panels absorb sunlight and turn the photos directly into electricity.
AREVA specifically got into the solar steam game back in 2010, when it acquired an American CSP firm called Ausra. Since then, AREVA has been pushing Ausra’s specific type of CSP technology — the Compact Linear Fresnel Reflector (CLFR) — all around the world.
AREVA in February announced it was adding a CLFR booster to an Arizona fossil fuel electricity plant, although that project is markedly smaller, producing just 5 megawatts to begin with.
At the time, an AREVA executive told TPM that the company believed hybrid plants that combined fossil fuels with solar energy were more efficient than stand-alone CSP plants.
But in India, AREVA is building not only two stand-alone plants, but their collective production will be the largest CSP project on the continent. AREVA explained the discrepancy in its approach between the U.S. and India:
AREVA Solar believes hybrid plants are the most cost-effective alternative to storage at this time. It is one of several options for applying AREVA’s CLFR technology. In the U.S., due to current demand, the near-term opportunities are for boosters. CLFR boosters are also the most cost-effective solar option. In the Indian market, the NSM calls for large-scale CSP. India is experiencing energy shortages, requiring utility-scale power generation (see map).
AREVA provided the following map to support its assertion that stand-alone CLFR plants make sense for India, where they do not in the U.S: