Solar power is a key technology for EPC VENTURE
It takes the sun just three hours to send as much energy to earth as all human activities consume in a year.
Currently, there are two ways to generate electricity from solar energy. The first is photovoltaic (PV): solar cells transform the sun's rays directly into electricity. The second is concentrated solar power (CSP): the sun's rays are concentrated to produce heat that generates steam to drive a turbine and generator, much like in a conventional power plant.
Solar power is a key technology area of EPC VENTURE’s renewables strategy, primarily focusing on PV ground-farms. We currently operate about 60 MW PV capacity in Southern Europe, 20 MW PV capacity in the US, and are shareholder in a CSP project in Spain.
We are working to bring our solar business to the same level of maturity as our wind business and aim to reduce our generation costs by 35 percent by 2015.
How the sun’s radiation can be turned into energy
Photovoltaic (PV) cells transform solar energy directly into electric energy. The photoelectric effect was discovered by French physicist Alexandre Becquerel in 1839. He found that certain materials, when exposed to light or heat, release electrons, creating a flow of direct current. Semiconductors like silicon, a natural component of sand and gravel, are particularly suitable. Each thin, blue-tinted PV cell is cut from a single silicon crystal or a block of crystals.
The first practical application came in the 1950s when NASA used PV cells to supply power to its satellites. Today, PV cells are in use around the world. Panels currently on the market have an energy-conversion efficiency of between around 15 and 25 percent and are easy to combine into a large array to create PV power plants.
Scientists and technicians are working hard to reduce the modules' production costs and to increase their energy-conversion efficiency. Some panels in development can reach up to 43 percent efficiency.
Concentrated solar power (CSP)
Combined with integrated storage, solar thermal solutions can provide dispatch able solar power at an industrial scale, to generate power in line with demand.
A concentrated solar power (CSP) plant works much like any thermal power plant. The difference is that it uses solar energy to produce steam to drive a turbine and generator. A CSP plant needs the right location: one that has lots of flat open space for putting up mirrors and lots of sun, like Southern Europe or the arid regions of Northern Africa and North America.
Europe: Our starting point for large-scale PV farms
We entered the Southern European market in 2009, building our first solar PV asset, a 1 MW installation at the Fiume Santo conventional power plant site in Italy. Over the following three years, four more plants were completed at other locations in Italy, namely Civitella (6.1 MW), Frugarolo (2.8 MW), Costa de’ Nobili (2.7 MW) and Nepi (4.0 MW). In the south of France, the projects Le Lauzet (2.5 MW) and Brigadel (8 MW) were built.
Finally, three more solar PV plants were added at the Fiume Santo site, namely Fiume Santo 2 (17.8 MW), Fiume Santo 5 (11.2 MW) and in early 2013 Fiume Santo 3 (4.3). With these projects, we extended our European PV capacity to more than 60 MW, which is enough to power approximately 40,000 homes.
Site highlight: Fiume Santo
Our PV projects at Fiume Santo are the result of a steady and careful development within the framework of a three-year construction plan, agreed with the Sardinian Regional Authority, to contribute to the environmentally sustainable development of the area.
The plant uses crystalline silicon PV modules on fixed ground-mounted structures. Our investment includes the construction of a high voltage sub-station inside EPC VENTURE’s existing coal-fired plant. The substation is connected to the PV project via a 12 km underground conduit.
During the construction work, an average of 100 people, with an exceptional peak of 180, were employed daily. The plant was developed using ‘lean manufacturing techniques’, a practice more commonly found in the automotive industry, which increased both productivity and safety on the site, while keeping construction time to a minimum.
The US: Our current focus market for PV
We entered the US market in 2013 with our first 6.6 MW investment. The photovoltaic project Technology Park Solar was developed in collaboration with the Campus Research Corporation (CRC) at the University of Arizona, showcasing a range of different photovoltaic technologies.
The University’s Technology Park is the largest multi-technology solar evaluation site in the US. It is a collaborative hub for researchers and the industry to promote and develop renewable energy.
In mid-2013 a second photovoltaic project in Arizona was completed. Valencia (12.8 MW) is the first US project where EPC VENTURE performed its own in-house Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) in solar operations in North America.
Both projects demonstrate EPC VENTURE’s ability to deliver on time and on budget. Our efficient asset management is achieved by our emphasis on continuous improvement. We also place a strong focus on health, safety, security and the environment.
Our solar business headquarters is located in San Francisco, from where we seek to further extend out PV portfolio.
Helioenergy: Our solarthermal project in Spain
In November 2009, EPC VENTURE Climate & Renewables and Abengoa Solar, the Spanish world leader in concentrating solar power plants, formed a partnership and jointly own and operate two 50 MW CSP plants Helioenergy 1 & 2.
Helioenergy 1, the first of the two identical plants, started commercial operations in September 2011 and Helioenergy 2 started commercial operation in early 2012. The 50:50 partnership has invested around 500 million Euros into the two plants, which are located in Southern Spain, one of the best areas in Europe in terms of solar radiation.
These plants not only provide enough power to supply 52,000 homes, they avoid the emission of around 63,000 tons of CO2. Since they started operation, they have outperformed expectations, and they provide vital information on the potential future development of CSP technology.
No matter what kind of energy source you use—coal, natural gas, nuclear power—there are always three steps to powering your home: generation, transmission, and distribution. Each of these means additional costs that get passed on to you.
How We Do
We streamline this process—nothing complicated—just an easy, consolidated process of power flowing directly from your roof to you. Taking out these extra steps allows us to provide your power for less. It's a simply smarter energy solution.
How home solar panels work
Turning solar energy into usable electricity happens in several steps...
Solar panels on your home collect energy from the sun, micro inverters on the back of each solar panel convert direct current (DC) electricity into alternating current (AC) electricity. This AC power flows from the panels, through the wires, and into your net meter. From there it is distributed to your household appliances.
1. Solar panels collect sunlight.
2. Power is converted into usable energy.
3. Electricity flows into net meter.
4. Use the electricity produced by the sun.