Plataforma Solar de Almería is organising a new minisymposium in Modelling and Simulation (M&S) which aims to continue the research activities being developed within this scientific area. This event is backed by the  previous success of last year’s minisymposium which took place in Finland within the EUROSIM2016 international conference.


This minisymposium will be performed as part of the activities of the 9th Vienna International Conference on Mathematical Modelling (MATHMOD 2018) and will be held from the 21st to the 23rd of February 2018 in Vienna. Its scope will be enlarged to all research lines and industrial applications based on solar thermal systems. Beyond the main goal to foster the use of M&S techniques available to all disciplines related with solar thermal plants, theoretical and practical novelties in different areas of interest are expected to be presented: methodologies, functionalities and application domains. In the last decade, new needs have been evidenced simultaneously with the creation of an incipient industry around solar thermal power plants and  new applications of solar thermal systems to other industries, as cited by our previous minisymposium. These new needs and applications might be solved -totally or partially- with the help of techniques currently available in M&S that have been successfully applied to other industrial sectors.


All those interested, including the research community and the Concentrating Solar Thermal (CST) industrial sector, are kindly encouraged to submit their contributions to this minisymposium. One of the main objectives is to present both types of manuscripts: works in progress and practical results with potential interest for the CST community. In general, any manuscript submitted applying M&S techniques and oriented to contribute in a positive way to any solar thermal technology (parabolic-trough, central receiver, linear Fresnel concentrator, solar furnace, desalination, detoxification...) will be received by the organisers with high expectation. In this way, we would like to remark that when an author presents a mathematical model with a possible application to this sector it might generate an unexpected interest in the audience which could rise a very interesting and fruitful discussions after the presentation.


Contributions in  the form of a full paper are due to be submitted by the 17th of September 2017. The deadline for contributions in the form of a short paper (Discussion Contribution) are due on the 5th of November 2017. Full paper contributions might be published in IFAC-PapersOnLine  proceedings series ( Further information can be found on the web MATHMOD 2018, or by contacting the minisymposium’s organisers.



Luis J. Yebra (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). CIEMAT. Plataforma Solar de Almería. Spain.

Prof. Esko Juuso (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). Universidad de Oulu. Finland. 

Solar EOR a Big Win for GlassPoint

Friday, 14 July 2017 07:10

Miraah, GlassPoint's $600 million 1 GW thermal solar EOR project is about to begin generating steam at 300 °C to flush out heavy oil from Oman's Amal oil field for Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) the Sultanate's largest hydrocarbons producer.

Unlike other CSP developers who leverage the heat of the sun as the “fuel” for a power block that then generates electricity to the grid; GlassPoint's enclosed troughs are simply employed in the direct production of steam, focusing on what the company sees as an ignored market for heat.

“We founded the company to not do electricity," explained Chief Technology Officer and co-founder, Pete von Behrens, the holder of numerous patents. "Almost everybody else has been focused on the electricity market which competes with very low cost photovoltaics. If you make heat instead, you eliminate the need for a power block and open yourself up to a major untapped market. The demand for heat is much bigger than the solar utility market."

"We had to take our technology and optimize it for a number of challenges. We first solved the problem of how to make cheap heat, which is the big problem. Then we had to uniquely solve how to keep it clean in super dusty high wind environments.”

How GlassPoint evolved

Even after deciding nine years ago to focus just on producing heat rather than on electricity generation, it took von Behrens and co-founder Rod MacGregor some time to find the perfect application for their technology. While industrial processing uses a lot of heat for steam, or to dry things out, or to heat ovens or kilns, they found that each application has its own peculiarity, making it tough to focus on any one industry need that would constitute a large enough market.

“There are many applications for industrial heat but most don't have the right amount of scale. There are also technical considerations; for example, the temperature may need to be very hot or heat is needed on a continuous 24 hour cycle, so there's a lot of peculiarities that can drive costs up,” von Behrens explained. “We didn't necessarily understand that because of the many different heat requirements, finding the right application was pretty tricky even with heat, and it took us a little time to find the right application.” 

The challenge was to find a market that required a temperature range they could meet where they could provide heat at a large enough scale, at a lower cost than natural gas, and of course, found in countries with the high DNI - direct normal irradiance - that is ideal for concentrated solar power (CSP).

The Goldilocks Customer

GlassPoint found that perfect market in the world’s sunny high DNI desert regions of the Middle East. The company has fine-tuned its technology to specifically provide steam for EOR - enhanced oil recovery. The steam helps to flush out heavy oil, which is too viscous to pump to the surface using primary oil production methods.

After a “prove it” pilot demonstration at 7 MW thermal, GlassPoint was able to land the world’s largest order for solar thermal. Miraah, a $600 million, 1 GW thermal solar EOR steam producer for Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), the Sultanate’s largest hydrocarbons producer. The pilot tested one greenhouse unit. Because it is modular, each unit will make its own steam.

"The pilot has been a resounding success," PDO Managing Director Raoul Restucci said in a testimonial on the company's website. "It has exceeded its nameplate capacity. It’s met all its criteria. Above all, it’s shown minimal maintenance requirements, very high reliability, and an outstanding uptime in excess of 98% no matter what the weather over the past two and a half years.

"With its massive energy demand and deep pockets, the oil industry turned out to be the Goldilocks customer.“It turned out to be significantly bigger and better than we had expected. The oil and gas industry is one of the largest energy consumers in the world," said von Behrens. "Aside from EOR, refining is also very energy-intensive; a lot of thermal energy, usually in the form of steam, is needed to turn crude oil into the fuel that can be burned in your car. Different applications need different temperatures, but it's all pretty well in our sweet spot."

Oil is found in deserts, where there is plentiful sun and the conditions are idea for solar thermal. The oil industry needs steam in the temperature range of GlassPoint's "sweet spot." It can use balance-sheet funding to shepherd innovative technology into full-scale operation - and to top it all off, in much of the Middle East, the natural gas it traditionally uses for EOR is expensive or scarce.

Local Fossil Fuel Subsidies Indirectly Boosted Solar

Like many Gulf nations, Oman has a growing gas shortage. PDO estimated that with solar replacing natural gas, the company will save 5.6 trillion Btus of natural gas each year.

It might seem counterintuitive that natural gas is scarce or expensive in oil fields. As with other oil-rich regions, natural gas co-occurs in many Gulf oil fields. But perversely there is a disincentive to invest in extracting it, because regional governments have heavily subsidized consumer use of natural gas to ensure domestic tranquility.

Consequently, local natural gas prices are so low that there is little incentive for industry to invest in the infrastructure to extract it. Governments buy cheaper gas on the world market, and oil fields flare it off.

So, while the Gulf is famous for its oil industry, its natural gas industry barely exists. Oman’s neighbour, Qatar has natural gas, but can get a better price on the international market. So, ironically, in the Gulf, fossil fuel subsidies have - in a roundabout way - made solar a cheaper option.

A Bonus in Enclosing the Parabolic Troughs

To protect from the dusty environment of an oil field the company invented enclosed trough technology. For the enclosure, GlassPoint bought readily available commercial greenhouses used in agriculture - with standard off-the-shelf cleaning robots. This decision had many benefits.Normally parabolic troughs have to be engineered to withstand wind.But because GlassPoint's parabolic mirrors are inside the glasshouses, not exposed to wind, they can be much lighter weight than usual, which reduces costs.

“By eliminating the wind load, GlassPoint is able to use ultra-lightweight, thin reflectors, which are suspended from the roof of the greenhouse,” Dr. Chiaki Treynor, Vice President of Technology at GlassPoint told attendees at the 2016 SolarPACES award ceremony in Abu Dhabi.

“Compared to older solar thermal designs with exposed reflectors, we use a fraction of the raw materials throughout the entire system," she explained.

"This has a cascading effect on cost—from reduced shipping costs, installation costs, to using smaller, off-the-shelf motors and drive systems used to track the sun. Since our reflectors are low-cost, we pack them much closer together to achieve the highest ground efficiency of any solar thermal system. This is particularly important for steam generation on oilfields, where siting is limited by active wells, roads and transmission lines.”

A fine art photographer can take the lions share of the credit for popularizing the “other” solar, concentrated solar power (CSP), the thermal solar technology. Images by the award-winning artist Jamey Stillings have become so widely used that it is not uncommon to see news stories about solar energy illustrated by a tower surrounded by mirrors, rather than the much more widely deployed PV.

The conference proceedings of SolarPACES 2016 are now published with AIP, the American Institute of Physics (, volume number 1850. All accepted papers are freely accessible on the AIP website and contain an ISBN number for the volume as well as individual DOI numbers for each paper. 


The SolarPACES 2016 proceedings are available here


CSP: Still small but learning fast

Tuesday, 13 June 2017 09:25

Concentrating solar power had a difficult market start compared to other renewable technologies, leading to a total global capacity of only 5 GW today after more than a decade of deployment. A comprehensive global empirical study identifies distinct deployment phases, with high learning rates exceeding 25% over the past 5 years. Read the full article:


Source: Nature Energy

Investment in renewable energy still lacking in 17 countries in South and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia


The 17 UNECE countries in South and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia represented only 0.2% or USD 0.4 billion of global renewable energy investment in 2015. despite comprising over 300 million inhabitants and representing 4.9% of the world's GDP Attracting investment represents a major challenge in these countries, even with numerous advanced support schemes and policies for renewable energy present.


These are two of the main findings of the UNECE Renewable Energy Status Report 2017, produced in partnership with the UNECE and the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st century (REN21), and in collaboration with the International Energy Agency (IEA).


The report provides a comprehensive, up-to-date overview of the status of renewable energy and energy efficiency markets, industry, policy and regulatory frameworks, and investment activities in the region. It draws on information from national and regional sources to present the most up-to-date summary of sustainable energy in:


Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Montenegro, Russian Federation, Serbia, Tajikistan, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.


The report was launched 12 June, 2017 at the Ministerial Conference and the Eighth International Forum on Energy for Sustainable Development in Astana/Kazakhstan.


It is available at ( and linked from

Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) issued on 15 January 2017 a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a 200MW CSP plant, the fourth phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park. The lowest bid has come in at 9.45 US cents/kWh. The three other bids ranged from 10.58 cents to 17.35 cents. DEWA will now review the submissions in order to determine the project winner.



The 2010 SolarPACES Lifetime Award Winner Arnold Goldman passed away earlier this week.


From SolarPACES we would like to express our sympathy and condolences to his family and friends.



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