Home' Technology Review : July August 2012 Contents S2
The Spanish health care system has consistently spent less as a
percentage of GDP than other industrialized countries, while its
citize ns have enjoyed what the World Health Organi zation considers
to be one of the very best health care systems. This has been
achieved to no small degree because of the efforts and successes of
The Spanish government, and Spanish companies, also bet heavily
on renewable energy, and they are now enjoying the rewards. Not
only does Spain boast a record percentage of electricity generated
by renewable sources—wind, solar thermal power, and photovoltaic
panels—but the companies that made it possible have since taken
the lead in some of the most significant international renewable
In the article that follows, you’ll read about many accomplishments
of Spanish companies, in sectors that span a wide range of technolo-
gies. Spain’s advances have led to success for industries not just in Spain,
but around the world.
Introduction by KATHLEEN D. KENNEDY
President, MIT Enterprise Forum; Chief Strategy Officer, Technology Review
Last year, under the brilliant sun in the south of Spain, a concen-
trating solar power (CSP) plant called Gemasolar began operations.
The 19.9 megawatt plant is the world’s first commercial-scale tower
CSP system to incorporate a storage system, allowing it to operate
when the sun is not shining. (CSP is also known as “solar thermal,”
since it capitalizes on the sun’s heat.)
The plant’s 2,650 heliostats, each with120 square meters of mir-
rors, direct the sun’s rays to the top of the 450-foot pillar, where
molten salts are heated to a temperature above 500°C. That heat
transforms water into steam, which turns turbines that generate elec-
tricity. Most important, the salts retain their daytime heat well into
the evening hours. The plant can provide stored power for as long
as 15 hours so the tower can meet peak evening demand, around
8:00 PM in winter and 10:00 PM in summer. Torresol, a joint ven-
ture of the Spanish engineering company Sener and Abu Dhabi’s
renewable energy company Masdar, designed and built the tower.
Gemasolar is the latest of Spain’s many successes in renewable
energy, both at home and overseas. Spain’s government, concerned
about the country’s dependency on oil and its relatively tenuous
connection to the greater European power grid, created favorable
conditions for renewable energy in Spain, particularly solar (both
photovoltaic panels and solar thermal) and wind power. Spain
leads Europe in wind-generated electricity, and its installed capac-
ity ranks among the highest in the world. Spain leads the world in
installed solar thermal capacity, boasting more than double that
of the second-place United States.
The U.S. provides a strong market for Spanish CSP companies.
Abengoa is developing California’s Mojave Solar, a solar thermal
plant that will come online in 2014 and, with 280 megawatts of
capacity, provide power for 54,000 homes. Mojave Solar will be the
16th Abengoa-developed solar thermal plant, and its second in the
U.S . (Another is currently under construction in Arizona.) Another
company, Acciona, has built a solar thermal plant in Nevada.
When it comes to solar thermal, says Luis Crespo, director of the
Spanish solar thermal industry association Protermosolar, “most of
the projects in the U.S. depend on Spanish technical assistance,”
even for installations not headed by Spanish companies.
Wind power continues to generate excitement as the relatively
mature industry moves into new territories. Iberdrola, an interna-
tional leader in wind farm operations, has completed the construc-
tion of one of the world’s largest wind farms, with 304 megawatts of
installed capacity, in Ohio. That farm also includes technology from
wind-turbine powerhouse Gamesa, which supplied 152 turbines.
Both companies manufacture and operate technology for wind
farms across the U.S., and in fact across most of the world. Iber-
drola has installed more than 13,000 megawatts of capacity in
23 countries and is also moving into offshore wind. The Spanish
Gemasolar is a concentrating solar
plant in southern Spain that can provide
power when the sun is not shining.
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