There are companies that have been able to multiply and diversify their business activities throughout their history without compromising quality. This paradigm can be seen at companies such as Sener, a firm founded in the mid-1950s in Bilbao (in Spain’s north-east) which has taken on all kinds of projects in sectors such as manufacturing, steel, chemicals, petrochemicals, civil engineering, aerospace, thermo-solar power, and even medicine.
Sener’s diversification is a factor that sets it apart from other engineering companies, since it has enabled the company not only to transfer know-how and technology between various areas, but also to succeed in fostering innovation and contributing added value in all of its projects.
This is borne out by the fact that the control systems developed in the space sector for satellite guidance and navigation are used at the solar plants designed by Sener, which include Gemasolar.
Pilar García, Sener’s communication manager, explains that: “The experience in the space sector has substantially improved the performance of this plant, which consists of a solar field with 2,650 heliostats (flat mirrors) occupying approximately 185 hectares. The mirrors enable capturing sunlight with immense precision in a receiver, located at the top of a tower through which molten salts flow. The latter come from a cold salt tank to the receiver, where they are heated to a temperature of up to 565ºC, and then descend to the heat exchanger where they generate water vapor. In surplus-energy conditions, in which the heat received is more than sufficient to cover the turbine’s requirements, some of the salts are stored in a hot tank capable of conserving heat for 15 hours.”
The Gemasolar project has become a global milestone for its innovation, excellence and sustainability, since it can provide an uninterrupted supply of energy for an entire day, thanks to the molten salt thermal storage system.
With only 19.9 MW of capacity, Gemasolar generates 110 GW/h per year, providing enough electricity to supply over 27,500 homes. This is the same amount of power that would be obtained from a coal plant burning 38,000 metric tons of lignite.
Pilar García adds: “Gemasolar represents a revolution in the concentrated solar power sector because it produces manageable power that can supply electricity as a function of demand.”
Also, the fact that this is the first commercial plant in the world to use technology involving a central tower and a molten salt receiver represents “a first step in the standardization of this technology, which will lead to a real reduction in the cost of solar plants.”
The complex is located in the province of Seville in the south of Spain, in the municipality of Fuentes de Andalusia. It belongs to Torresol Energy, a joint venture between the Sener group and Masdar, an energy company from Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates).
In addition to its experience in thermo-solar plants, Sener has undertaken projects at combined-cycle electricity generation plants in Argentina, Mexico and Venezuela; regasification of liquefied gas in the Netherlands where, as part of an international consortium, it is building one of the largest complexes in Europe, Rotterdam’s Gate Terminal; nuclear power in the United States and Spain, as well as other projects involving biofuels, refining, chemicals, petrochemicals and plastics.
Gemasolar plant. Photo: Sener