The Andasol 3 solar thermal power plant is on track to start operation in mid-2011 following the installation of the steam turbine and generator, says RWE Innogy.

The German utility says that the installation of key equipment at the site in southern Spain is a major milestone in the project. Installation of the plant’s parabolic trough collectors was completed in June.

Andasol 3 will consist of 210 000 parabolic mirrors that will collect and concentrate solar radiation onto an absorber pipe that is filled with heat transfer fluid. The absorbed energy will be transferred to a water/steam cycle that powers a turbine to produce electricity.

According to RWE Innogy, construction of the plant’s thermal storage units is also on schedule, with thousands of tons of special salt mixture currently being stored in its crystalline state in the port of Almeira.

The salt will eventually be liquefied and will be used to store energy from the solar field so that the plant can continue to generate electricity overnight or on cloudy days.

The 50 MW plant will produce around 165 GWh/year of electricity. There are currently over 300 people working on site.

“We will increase this number in the next few weeks and months to around 500 once we step up the work at other construction stages as well,” said Thomas Speth, Project Manager for Andasol 3. “This includes the pipe installation work between the heat exchangers, pumps and the power plant block. At the moment, pipe installation and cabling work is also being carried out in the solar field.”