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First Ever Solar Energy Power Tower in Spain - 4/03/07

Europe has gained a new source of renewable energy with the inauguration of the continent's first-ever "power tower" at the center of a field of mirrors near the southern Spanish town of Sanlucar la Mayor.

The 115-metre-high tower is the key element in what is being hailed as the world's first-ever commercial power tower plant. Rings of huge mirrors laid out around it reflect and focus the sun's power, beaming it back up to the top of the tower where the intense heat is absorbed and transmitted to a steam-driven generator.

A total of 624 large mirrors have been placed around the tower to gather the intense sunshine of south-western Spain.

The 120 sq m heliostat mirrors automatically track the sun as it moves east to west. They will produce temperatures of up to 250C. The tower will produce 11MW of electricity, enough to power some 6,000 homes. "It will save 18,000 tonnes of carbon emissions every year," a spokesman for Arbengoa, the company behind the power tower, said.

It is the first stage of an impressive solar power project at the Sanlucar la Mayor site, which will use various kinds of solar technology to produce some 300MW of energy within six years. That will be enough to power some 180,000 homes.

The project includes a second power tower, the PS20, which is due to produce almost twice as much energy as the first.

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