Egypt’s first solar-thermal plant

The Kuraymat hybrid power plant will have an overall capacity of 150 MW of electricity, which will be generated using solar power and natural gas. In an assembly hall on the site, workers had assembled mirrors with a total surface area of around 130,000 m².

In Kuraymat, roughly 100 km south of Cairo, a major solar-thermal power plant is going into operation for the first time in Egypt. The solar field consists of parabolic trough collectors with an overall surface area of 130,000 m² and is part of a hybrid power plant that will use both solar power and natural gas to generate electricity. In the scope of starting up operations, the last few days saw the entire solar field being directed at the sun and the heat energy being fed into the heat exchanger in the power block for the first time.

The Kuraymat hybrid power plant will have an overall capacity of 150 MW of electricity, which will be generated using solar power and natural gas. In an assembly hall on the site, workers had assembled mirrors with a total surface area of around 130,000 m². The collectors, which were six meters high, were subsequently installed in the solar field in rows of parabolic trough mirrors several hundreds of meters long. All 2,000 collectors in the solar field are automatically directed towards the position of the sun. The solar unites were provided by Flagsol GmbH, a subsidiary of the Erlangen-based company Solar Millennium AG, and Essen-based Ferrostaal AG. Flagsol designed the solar field, delivered the control for it,  and was responsible for supplying key components, primarily the parabolic mirrors and absorber pipes. The solar field was built and is put into operation in cooperation with the Egyptian company Orascom Construction Industries.

The Kuraymat site benefits from more than 2,400 kWh of solar irradiation per square meter and year on average. The solar irradiation, which is channeled to parabolic-shaped mirrors, is reflected onto an absorber pipe in the focal line of the collector. The vacuum-isolated absorber pipes contain a circulating heat transfer fluid, which is heated up to 300-400 degrees through the concentrated sunlight. The heat transfer fluid is then pumped into the central power block and the thermal energy coming from the solar field is converted into electrical energy.

“The hybrid power plant can be operated without interruption, thereby supplying electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” explains Matthias Strub, Technical Project Manager at Flagsol. “It’s the first plant of its kind in Egypt, which makes it an important reference for future investments.”

Oliver Blamberger, member of the Executive Board of Solar Millennium, also underscores the importance of the project: “With Kuraymat we’ve shown that electricity from the deserts of North Africa is no longer dream of the future. Our technology is proof that the DESERTEC idea can be realized, as can the successful European-African cooperation in the field of renewable energy.”

The hybrid power plant in Kuraymat was tendered internationally and commissioned by the Egyptian energy authority NREA. The overall cost came out to more than € 250 million, 30% of which went to realizing the solar field. Given the fact that the project can serve as an example for future projects, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) has provided a grant of around US$ 50 million for the solar field. The generation of electricity and the feed-in into the Egyptian grid are to start at the beginning of 2011, as soon as the conventional part with the turbine has also gone into operation. After the start of operations, Flagsol and Orascom Construction Industries will operate the solar part of the power plant for two years before ultimately handing it over to the owner.

Solar Millennium www.solarmillennium.de