Today Europe's first ever parabolic trough power plant, Andasol 1, is being officially inaugurated under the patronage of the president of the Junta de Andalucía. In December 2008, Andasol 1 was connected to the grid and supplies up to 200,000 people in southern Spain with environmentally friendly electricity. With a collector surface of more than 510,000 square meters - equalling the area of 70 soccer fields - Andasol 1 also is the world's largest solar power plant. For the first time ever, large thermal storage facilities are being used, enabling the plant to even generate solar power after sunset.
Andasol 1 was developed by Solar Millennium AG, which specialises in solar-thermal power plants, and constructed by the Spanish ACS/Cobra Group. The project company for Andasol 1 is a joint venture by ACS/Cobra (75%) and Solar Millennium (25%). Solar Millennium's subsidiary Flagsol contributed the technology for the solar field. In the immediate vicinity of Andasol 1, the solar power plants Andasol 2 and 3, which are basically identical in construction, are being built. At present Andasol 2 is in the start-up phase; Andasol 3 will be connected to the grid in 2011. The entire gross power production capacity of the plants will total about 540 GWh per year. Thus, the plants will supply more than half a million people with power and save roughly 450,000 tons of carbon dioxide every year.
The power plants will mainly cover peak demand within the Spanish electricity supply system in the summer months. The high electricity demand is primarily caused by the high energy consumption of air-condition units. Each power plant has 50 megawatts of electric power and thermal storage facilities. A full storage unit guarantees additional power generation of about 7.5 hours - also at night. Each thermal storage facility consists of two tanks that are 14 m high and 36 m in diameter and can hold 28,500 tons of molten salt.