The consortium leading the construction of the world’s first commercial-scale solar thermal plant to use central tower and salt receiver technology has awarded Foster Wheeler the contract for the project’s steam generating equipment.

Under a contract of undisclosed value, Foster Wheeler will design and supply the steam generating and feedwater heater equipment for the Gemasolar concentrated solar power (CSP) project in Seville, Spain. Initial operation of the plant is expected in 2010.

Torresol Energy – a joint venture between Spain’s Sener and Masdar of the UAE – announced in January that it had completed a EUR171 million financing deal that would allow it to proceed with construction of the plant. More recently, a report from Emerging Energy Research (EER) said that CSP development is growing rapidly and that installed capacity around the world could reach 25 GW by 2020.

Foster Wheeler says it has received a full notice to proceed on its contract for the project, which is being built by a consortium of Sener and AMSA. The technology to be used in the Gemasolar plant represents a major step forward in the development of CSP technology.

“Foster Wheeler was instrumental in the design development of solar thermal power technology in the 1970s and early 1980s,” said Eric Svendsen, chief executive officer of Foster Wheeler Energia, S.A. “The renewed global interest in solar power gives us the opportunity to apply this expertise to the advanced solar thermal power plants being developed today.”

The Gemasolar plant will use the Sener Central Receiver System (CRS) design with molten salt heat storage, which provides higher efficiency and utilization factors than units without storage. The salt is heated by concentrated solar light reflected by heliostat mirrors toward a tower-mounted receiver. Once heated, the salt is then used to produce high quality steam for electricity generation.

EER’s recent research indicates that renewable energy policies in Spain have made the country the global epicentre of CSP development.

Torresol’s long-term goal is to develop 320 MW of CSP capacity by the end of 2010, reaching 1000 MW in ten years. It wants to introduce and test new technologies in every project in order to increase the competitive position and reliability of CSP technology.