Solana Generating Station

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Solana Generating Station Project
Abengoa Solar (7336111844).jpg
Assembly of the parabolic mirrors
CountryUnited States
LocationMaricopa County
Coordinates32°55′N 112°58′W / 32.917°N 112.967°W / 32.917; -112.967Coordinates: 32°55′N 112°58′W / 32.917°N 112.967°W / 32.917; -112.967
Construction beganDecember 2010
Commission date2013
Construction costUS$2 billion
Owner(s)Atlantica Sustainable Infrastructure[1]
Liberty Interactive Corporation
Operator(s)Arizona Solar One LLC
Solar farm
CSP technologyParabolic trough
Total collector area2,233,958 square metres (552.023 acres)
Site area1,920 acres (780 ha)
Power generation
Units operational2
Make and modelSiemens[2]
Nameplate capacity250 MW
Capacity factor35.4% (2018)
Annual net output776 GW·h (2018)
Storage capacity1,500 MW·he
External links
CommonsRelated media on Commons

The Solana Generating Station is a solar power plant near Gila Bend, Arizona, about 70 miles (110 km) southwest of Phoenix, completed in 2013. When commissioned it was the largest parabolic trough plant in the world and the first U.S. solar plant with molten salt thermal energy storage.[3] Built by the Spanish company Abengoa Solar, it has a total capacity of 280 megawatts (MW) gross, from two 140 MW gross (125 MW net) steam turbine generators, which is enough to power 70,000 homes while avoiding around 475,000 tons of CO2 every year.[4] Its name is the Spanish term for "sunny spot".[5]


The plant employs a proprietary concentrating solar power (CSP) trough technology developed by Abengoa, and covers an area of 1,920 acres (780 ha). Construction was expected to create about 1,500 construction jobs with the plant employing 85 full-time workers.[6][7] Solar thermal plants use substantially more water for cooling than other solar generating technologies. Nevertheless, the Sierra Club supports the Solana plant, because it will be built on private land, and use "75 to 85 percent less water than the current agricultural use."[8]


Arizona Public Service (APS) has contracted to purchase 100% of the power output generated from Solana, to meet the Arizona Corporation Commission's (ACC) mandate that the state's regulated utilities provide 15% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025. APS will pay about 14 cents per kWh.[9] The Solana plant was originally planned to open in 2011 and was estimated to cost $2 billion.[10] In December 2010, Abengoa received a $1.45 billion loan guarantee to support construction of the plant.[11]

Energy storage[edit]

Construction of the Salt Tanks

One of the principal advantages of concentrated solar thermal (CST) is that thermal energy storage can be provided efficiently,[12] so that output can be provided after the sun goes down, and output can be scheduled to meet demand requirements.[13] The Solana Generating Station is designed to provide six hours of energy storage. This allows the plant to generate about 38 percent of its rated capacity over the course of a year.[14]


Solana Generating Station's production is as follows.[15]

Generation (MW·h) of Solana Generating Station [15]
Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Total
2013 0 45,230 23,839 20,179 89,248
2014 29,945 31,825 49,358 50,325 75,221 78,231 59,276 52,191 63,406 62,693 33,735 17,361 603,567
2015 12,165 27,259 51,698 82,237 88,122 91,097 86,217 91,475 63,135 49,469 46,262 29,707 718,843
2016 33,173 37,399 51,744 57,353 88,255 88,994 84,981 42,855 51,387 50,595 35,073 21,861 643,670
2017 22,550 34,934 78,837 89,629 86,648 115,921 23,376 63,812 81,571 72,194 30,596 23,898 723,966
2018 33,078 38,661 48,242 68,419 106,877 106,604 87,204 87,032 90,027 54,029 41,303 14,537 776,013
2019 29,041 26,957 61,997 88,945 91,002 111,993 89,483 99,268 71,398 76,043 25,171 20,344 791,642
Total 4,346,949

Maximum annual electricity production was planned at 900,000 MW·h (900 GW·h).[16] At the end of the fifth full year of operation, the Solana Generating Station is operating 13.8% below the planned maximum production value.[15]

Operations issues[edit]

In the summer of 2017, the plant had two transformer fires.[17] The plant also went through some other challenging issues. For example, Maricopa County environmental officials are looking into whether the plant violated air pollution standards. In 2016, Maricopa County fined the plant $1.5 million for violations of air quality standards. According to the Phoenix New Times, "The plant’s parent company, a subsidiary of Abengoa called Atlantica Yield, downplayed the issues, and a company representative said that better times are likely ahead."[17]

The plant opened in 2014 and has suffered a number of problems since its opening. According to government documents, the plant is expected to produce 900,000 MWh every year. This amount of electricity could power about 65,000 typical homes in Arizona. However, the plant produced only 600,000 MWh in its first full year of operation, according to information from the Federal Energy Information Administration. In 2015, the output increased to 700,000 MWh. In the summer of 2017, a microburst "knocked out the plant that July."[17] but notwithstanding that, generation reached 723,966 MWh.

A CSP thermal power block is like that of a coal or gas-fired plant, except its fuel is sunlight and a typical first year and a half of ramp-up is the norm.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Our Assets". Atlantica Sustainable Infrastructure (was Atlantica/Abengoa Yield). 2 November 2015. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  2. ^ "Solana Project Description". Atlantica Yield (was Abengoa Yield). Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  3. ^ Mearian, Lucas. U.S. flips switch on massive solar power array that also stores electricity: The array is first large U.S. solar plant with a thermal energy storage system, October 10, 2013. Retrieved October 18, 2013.
  4. ^ "Solana, the largest parabolic trough plant in the world". Abengoa. Retrieved 2015-11-02.
  5. ^ "Solana" in
  6. ^ Abengoa to Build 280MW Concentrating Solar Power Plant in Arizona Archived 2013-10-19 at the Wayback Machine, website, February 21, 2008.
  7. ^ Lavelle, Marianne. Big Solar Project Planned for Arizona Desert: $1 billion installation would use parabolic mirrors to generate power southwest of Phoenix Archived 2009-08-28 at the Wayback Machine, U.S. News & World Report, February 21, 2008.
  8. ^ Gelt, Joe (2008). "Clean, Green Solar Power Falls Short in Achieving Water Efficiency". Arizona Water Resource (Arizona Water Resource, vol. 17, no. 1, 16pp., Water Resources Research Center, Tucson, AZ, Autumn 2008). University of Arizona, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Retrieved 2008-12-04.
  9. ^ Randazzo, Ryan (February 21, 2008). "Plant to brighten state's solar future". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved 2009-06-08.
  10. ^ Randazzo, Ryan (July 3, 2010). "Arizona solar plant gets big boost from feds". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved 2010-07-03.
  11. ^ "Abengoa closes $1.45 billion federal loan guarantee for Arizona solar farm". Reuters. Dec 21, 2010.
  12. ^ Wright, matthew; Hearps, Patrick; et al. Australian Sustainable Energy: Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan, Energy Research Institute, University of Melbourne, October 2010, p. 33. Retrieved from website.
  13. ^ Innovation in Concentrating Thermal Solar Power (CSP), website.
  14. ^ Solana: 10 Facts You Didn't Know About the Concentrated Solar Power Plant Near Gila Bend
  15. ^ a b c "Solana Generating Station, Monthly". Electricity Data Browser. Energy Information Administration. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
  16. ^ "Solana". Loan Programs Office. U.S. Department of Energy. 2010. Archived from the original on 3 May 2019. Retrieved 12 September 2019. Solana is expected to generate 900,000 megawatt-hours of clean energy per year
  17. ^ a b c Stern, Ray (2017-08-30). "Dark Clouds — Transformer Fires and Air Pollution — Continue to Follow Solana Power Plant". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved 2017-09-07.
  18. ^ Kraemer, Susan (30 November 2017). "How Has Spain's Concentrated Solar Thermal Power Performed?". SolarPACES. Archived from the original on 2 January 2019. Retrieved 22 September 2019.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]