Parabolic trough power plants are the only technology for utilizing solar energy in large power plants that has been commercially proved over a number of years. Parabolic trough power plants have been in successful commercial operation in California since 1985. They have already generated over twelve billion kilowatt hours of solar electricity, which equates to providing some 12 million people with electricity for one year. As with conventionally fuelled power plants, including nuclear power plants, the electricity in parabolic trough power plants is generated using a steam turbine connected to a generator. However, the steam required is not produced by burning fossil fuels but through the use of solar energy. The solar irradiation is captured and concentrated by long rows of parabolic mirrors. The heat generated in this way is enough to produce the steam required.
Solar Millennium has developed Europe's first parabolic trough power plants
. Solar Millennium's pioneer project Andasol 1 has been connected to the grid since December 2008. Andasol 2 was completed in early summer 2009 and has since been connected to the grid.
Andasol 3 was inaugurated in autumn 2011 and is also generating climate-friendly solar power.