ENEA-MATS – Egypt taps into solar
The vast majority of Egypt’s power is currently provided by natural gas-fired power stations. Recently however, the country’s government has pledged to generate 20% of its power from renewable sources by 2020 (12% from grid-connected wind turbines and 8% from hydro, solar and other renewables). This implies adding a capacity of about 7000 MW of wind and approximately 1000 MW of solar power technologies.
A € 12.5 million EU-funded project in the country aims at taking the first tentative steps to fulfilling this promise by exploiting the abundance of solar energy and providing adequate local requirements for power and heat.
The Multipurpose Applications by Thermodynamic Solar or MATS project began as recently as July 2011. Within 42 months, this ambitious initiative intends to build a plant capable of producing electricity, heat, cooling, and desalinated water, by using solar energy integrated with other energy sources which are available locally.
The MATS project is divided into three phases. The first phase will see each component of the system being developed via experimentation and numerical modelling, while the second will involve the construction of the actual plant near Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast. The last phase will be devoted to experimental demonstration in the plant, which is expected to produce, each year, more than 3.000 MWh of electricity and about 8.900 MWh of thermal energy.
The Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) technology due to be used in the plant has been developed by ENEA, the Italian national agency for new technologies, energy and sustainable economic development. The technology will use molten salts as heat transfer fluid and will produce heat and power from solar sources integrated with renewable fuels, such as biomass, biogas and industrial residues.
“The thermal energy produced in this plant will be the energy source in a desalination unit as well as for the heating and cooling of the surrounding area,” says MATS Project Co-ordinator, Fabrizio Fabrizi. “The plant will produce energy “on demand” due to the integration with a back-up system containing various alternative fuels. This makes the system flexible and allows for continuous power production.”
The MATS project brings together partners from the research and industry fields of various countries. Working alongside Italy’s ENEA there are research partners from France, United Kingdom, Germany and indeed Egypt. In addition, industrial partners from Italy and Egypt will feature.
“It is expected that the work carried out over the coming years will validate the new technology in Egypt which as we all know is a perfect location for solar irradiation,” says Fabrizi. And it is not only Egypt that stands to benefit. “All things going well, this approach may well be replicated across the Mediterranean,” he adds.
The project’s replication would in fact see the MATS project spreading even more good news across the Mediterranean region. Technology transfer, skills training, and job creation are just some of the future benefits being mentioned.