The Hysol project aims to integrate biomethane into concentrating solar thermal power plants to achieve better efficiency, productive capacity and a reduction in carbon footprint.
According to the Technical University of Madrid, the integration of biomethane in concentrating solar thermal power plants would facilitate the commercial introduction of concentrating solar power (CSP) technology in the energy market, reducing both financial and environmental costs. The Hysol project, which is led by the ACS-Cobra company, is expected to build a pre-industrial plant located at the cluster of thermosolar innovation of Manchasol.
Spain is a pioneering country in the technological and commercial development of CSP technology, with 48 operating plants of 2204 MWe of capacity. The United States has 20 thermosolar plants (956 MWe) and other countries with access to optimal solar resources (China, India, Israel, Mexico, South Africa, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Australia, Chile, etc) also have commercial CSP plants or CSP plants under construction. The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects a large increase in the contribution of this technology to the worldwide electricity production—from 147 GW in 2020 to 1089 GW in 2050.
A big issue of CSP technology is that electrical generation depends on solar cycles, seasonal cycles and weather conditions. In order to increase the capacity and the power production control, these types of plants usually have thermal storage systems based on the usage of fossil fuels, mainly natural gas (or, solar energy can be stored in ceramic particles). The combustion of natural gas in simple cycles, such as the ones used in conventional power plants, can reduce the energy efficiency and considerably increase the carbon footprint of the plant.
The ability to hybridize solar energy with other renewable energy resources such as biomethane considerably improves the financial viability of this technology, allowing a production of 100% renewable electricity. Gas consumption from renewable energy (biogas, biomethane or syngas) makes possible the usage of combined cycle technologies which are more efficient, sustainable and competitive.
The Spanish company ACS-Cobra is leading the Hysol European project (Innovative Configuration of a Fully Renewable Hybrid CSP Plant, FP7-Energy-2012-1. CP 308912), that aims to develop a new concept of a thermosolar/biomethane hybrid plant. This project involves the development, construction, operation and optimization of a pre-industrial infrastructure that will be based in the cluster of thermosolar innovation of Manchasol owned by ACS-Cobra. This facility will allow the research of biomass fuels integration in the gas phase (biogas, biomethane or syngas) at pre-industrial scale. This project will also be used as initial phase to verify the technology.