A Challenge and a Solution:  Siemens finishes the innovative yet complex Les Borges Blanques hybrid solar field on time and on budget

Borges Blanques, Spain: Less than one year after beginning work on-site, Siemens has completed the construction of the parabolic trough solar field for the 25 MW Les Borges Blanques hybrid solar/natural gas/bio-mass power plant, perhaps the most unique solar power plant in all of Spain.  On August 4th, 2012, in a ceremony together with the customer Abantia-Comsa Emte, the Provisional Acceptance Certificate (PAC) was signed, and the Siemens team was congratulated for a challenge accepted and a job well done.

“There was nothing ordinary about this job,” said Shmuel Fledel, CEO of Siemens STE, “With a difficult terrain, non-symmetrical alignment, cold weather, and a high speed railroad running right through the middle of the plant, we needed to think creatively and develop innovative engineering and construction solutions.  I am happy to say, and more importantly, our customer is happy to say, we have passed the test.” 

Indeed, in the relatively new field of solar power, nearly all power plants built to date are rectangular and located in sunny and dry locations like Andalucía.  A visitor this past winter to the Les Borges Blanques site, in the foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees, would have encountered thick fog and 2° C temperatures and wondered: “Is this really a solar power plant?”

“Definitely, says Fledel.  “These types of plants, especially with the hybrid component, will be a big part of the renewable energy mix.  There is great potential in solar thermal power plants to supply power when the sun is shining and, through storage and hybrid configurations, even when it is not. Our mission at Siemens STE is to apply know-how from our executed projects[i] to streamline construction schedules and to increase both operational performance and technical efficiency. That’s what we did in Borges Blanques.”

Given the constraints of the site’s terrain, Siemens was required to introduce modifications, such as reduced distance between the parabolic trough loops, to accommodate the non-level solar field and staggered rows.  Perhaps the biggest challenge was the Madrid to Barcelona AVE high-speed train line running through the middle of the solar field. Parabolas were constructed on one side in Siemens parabolic assembly building and then transported over the railway bridge to the other side for installation. This necessitated close coordination with local traffic authorities, who gave Siemens a permit to use a local agricultural bridge for a limited window of time.

“This was an exciting project, but with tough physical demands and a strict deadline,” said Ofer Gilat, Global Project Manager for Siemens STE, “Nevertheless, we were aware of the challenges from the beginning – logistics, purchasing, engineering – and we proved that with teamwork, intense focus, rigorous project management, and of course a consistent and transparent rapport with the customer, we will execute successfully.”

Above all, the Les Borques Blanques project has expanded the horizon for solar thermal power plants.  “The Borques Blanques plant, with Siemens as our design and construction partner, has introduced new options,” said XXX of the Abantia-Comse Emte consortium. “With the flexibility to develop and adopt new designs, and to combine different renewable sources in one facility, we can reduce both our investment and our operating costs.”

[i] Editor:  Siemens STE has recently connected the Lebrija I power plant to the grid and has completed the construction of its Olivenza solar field


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