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At the Jülich pilot plant, 2,153 moveable mirrors (heliostats) focus sunlight onto the top of the 60-metre-high tower. There the sunlight is absorbed by a 22-square-metre receiver and converted into heat. und in Wärme umgewandelt.
© DLR/Lannert
German solar thermal technology being tested in the sunbelt

First tower power plant in North Africa

The first solar power tower in North Africa is being constructed in Algeria. The technology comes from Germany: researchers tested it using the Jülich solar tower. The German Federal Ministry of the Environment is supporting the development and export of this solar thermal power plant technology with the intention of revolutionising energy production in the earth’s sunbelt.

An agreement between Germany and Algeria for constructing a solar thermal power plant has been concluded. The solar thermal power plant with an output of up to seven megawatts will be constructed in Boughezoul on the northern edge of the Sahara. The power plant can be operated with natural gas after sunset. Because Algeria has its own reserves of this fuel, electricity is currently almost entirely produced there using natural gas. The combination of solar energy and gas enables Algeria to manage the transition from fossil- to solar-based power generation in a cost-effective manner that ensures supply security.

Export strategy for solar energy

Algeria is the first North African country to construct a tower power plant. The technology was decisively further developed by researchers as part of the “Solar Tower Jülich” project. With the support of the German Federal Ministry of the Environment, a pilot power plant at Jülich has been operated since 2009. The German government is aiming to develop the technology further for export purposes. In Germany itself, the generation of electricity with solar thermal power plants is not yet thought to be economically feasible because of the high proportion of diffuse sunlight and the high cloud cover.
The efficiency of solar power plants depends on the direct solar irradiation. With tower power plants, many individual mirrors reflect the sunlight onto the top of the tower. There a solar receiver absorbs the heat, which it uses to heat water. The resulting steam drives a turbine, which produces electricity via a generator.

The core of the tower power plant is the solar receiver. At the Jülich pilot plant, a project group under the auspices of the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) has developed a high temperature receiver (HITREC) for this purpose. "Together with the Algerian researchers, we can now garner valuable experience for further improving the technology under real desert conditions," explains Professor Bernhard Hoffschmidt, Co-Director of the DLR Institute for Solar Research.



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