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Advantages of solar power

Abengoa and the advantages of solar power

Diversification in energy sources is one of the most important elements of energy policy in the world today. One of the key advantages of solar power is that it lowers the dependency on oil, gas and nuclear fuels of countries that do not have those resources available to them.

Photovoltaic energy creation has developed apace over the last decade, aided by government funding and subsidies that recognise the growing importance of this essential form of new, clean, energy production. One of the major advantages of solar power is that it increases the proportion of renewable energy in the energy mix and, accordingly, helps offset the volatility of fossil fuels.

With its origins and headquarters in Spain, but operating with a global footprint, Abengoa is a global company that provides innovative solutions in the fields of energy, telecommunications and transportation. As well as producing biofuels, desalinating seawater and recycling industrial waste, Abengoa specialises in providing communities with the advantages of solar power.

Given the increasing pressure on both developed and emerging nations to offset the damaging effects of fossil fuel carbon emissions – in addition to the increasing rarity and expense of such forms of energy, and the continued scepticism surrounding nuclear power production – Abengoa has focused its attention on developing the advantages of solar power’s next generation technology.

Since its foundation, Abengoa has been pivotal in the development of new energy technologies, ranging from bio-thermal resources through to seawater. And today, the company is a key driver in promulgating the advantages of solar power in both developed and developing nations globally.

Abengoa’s expertise

Engineering and construction are among Abengoa’s traditional activities in the energy and water sectors. With more than 70 years experience in the market, the company specialises in complex turn-key projects for solar-thermal and solar-gas hybrid plants (two important ways of exploiting the advantages of solar power), conventional generation plants, biofuels plants and water infrastructures, as well as large-scale desalination plants and transmission lines, among other projects.

However, the growing international demand for renewable energy means it is important to develop new ways in which to develop the field: especially ways that use clean and inexhaustible sources. To this end, Abengoa has built a number of centres that convert energy from renewable sources into electricity and biofuels, in addition to constructing transmission lines that support electricity networks.

Furthermore, the expanding population of developing countries, together with the issue of climate change, is putting pressure on existing fossil-fuel resources. In response to this, Abengoa is developing new technologies, such as producing drinking water from sea- and wastewater. It is also recycling waste products such as aluminium and zinc, while at the same time utilising the advantages of solar power.

In addition to its development of the advantages of solar power techniques, Abengoa boasts an impressive portfolio of proprietary concession assets that generate revenues. These are governed by long-term sales agreements with formats such as take-or-pay contracts, tariff contracts or Power Purchase Agreements. This activity includes the operation of electric energy generation plants and transmission lines.

One of the key advantages of solar power generation, however, is that it can easily be combined with conventional power plants to form hybrid plants. This ability reduces the dependence on conventional fuel and therefore helps cut carbon dioxide emissions that result from natural gas and coal-fuelled generating plants.

To this end, Abengoa also has extensive experience in designing, building, operating and maintaining hybrid solar-gas plants. In Algeria, the 150-megawatt Hass-R´Mel plant has been operating since 2011. In further view of the advantages of solar energy, Abengoa is building a plant named Solana – a 280-megawatt plant located in Arizona – that will include six hours of molten salt storage capability.

Corporate governance

In February 2012, the 14th edition of the first Spanish corporate governance initiative was published. The design of the report was to “keep in alignment the plans of those who manage [the company] with the interests of those who provide funds and assume the company’s risk”. These guidelines are intended to guide the company’s policy, control its management and act as a vital connection with its governing shareholders.

Shortly afterwards, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development approved its Principles of Corporate Governance. Thereafter, the National Securities Market Commission published the Circular 1/2004 of 17 March, which supplements previous legislation, in which it describes the content of the annual corporate governance report for Spanish PLCs.

Whereas Abengoa has a proven track record in the energy sector, it is also today breaking new ground in terms of its corporate government policies. Not only does Abengoa comply with the transparency and management requirements demanded by both national and international standards on corporate ethics, it also sets the bar when it comes to the standards of corporate governance.

Abengoa continues to be the only listed company in Spain that submits its Annual Corporate Governance Report to independent verification by a third party, and subsequently obtains the highest level of assurance of its strong compliance with the best practices of corporate governance. In terms of its equal employment policies, Abengoa has created one of the most enviable reputations in Spain and all the nations the company represents.

As such, the company’s International Advisory Board, which ensures women are fully acknowledged as an integral part of a company’s management programme, continues to ensure that the right people are placed in the right positions. Finally, in addition to its existing credentials, Abengoa has twice won World Finance magazine’s Best Corporate Governance award in Spain, proving there is much more to the company than simply promoting the advantages of solar power.

Shareholder assurance

In April 2004, the Spanish Institute of Directors – a body comprised of individual directors and administrators of companies and institutions – created a professional standards committee with the aim of periodically updating the standards to be followed by company boards and directors in order to promote and update the best international practices.

As Abengoa appreciates the importance of appropriately managing risk in order to achieve its strategic plan and objectives, at the last General Shareholders’ Meeting, held in September 2012, a series of amendments to the company’s bylaws were approved in order to guarantee the rights of minority interests.

Abengoa not only implements its own Code of Conduct, but also applies the provisions of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which regulates the actions of all international companies that have some type of activity in the US.

Technological expertise

Having long recognised the advantages of solar power, Abengoa has worked hard to establish itself as a global leader in solar tower technology. To date, Abengoa has dedicated its efforts to a second-generation solar tower, which is more efficient than its predecessors because it reaches higher temperatures.

The solar power tower technology involves capturing solar radiation using a set of dual-axis mirrors (or ‘heliostats’) that track the sun, and concentrate the reflect sunlight onto the receivers located on the top of the tower. An advantage of this solar power technology integrates a thermal storage system to allow the power to be dispatched, thus continuing plant operation under cloud cover or at night.

Abengoa Solar has extensive expertise in parabolic trough technology through R&D work, as well as the construction and start-up of several plants that use this technology. Abengoa Solar has also designed and developed a new concentration photovoltaic technology in order to maximise its exploitation of the advantages of solar power, achieving concentrations of the equivalent of between 500 and 1,000 suns.

Abengoa’s focus today is firmly on promoting the advantages of solar power that can contribute significantly to addressing the current challenges in energy shortages and climate change. One of the most important factors that sets solar power apart from other forms of renewable energy generation is its dispatchability: that is the ability to adapt production to the demand.

Dispatchability is considered essential for electrical systems. Having the ability to adjust energy generation to demand gives the benefit of being able to sell electricity to the grid at peak generation hours, with a resulting increase in price, and the ability to compensate for the effects of intermittent energy sources.

Solar thermal power is dispatchable because it has great thermal inertia that prevents it from failing to generate energy unexpectedly. This particular advantage of solar power comes from its use of a small percentage of natural gas and thermal storage.

The highest standards

With a long-standing reputation as an innovator in the energy sector, today Abengoa has also expanded its range of expertise to include bio-thermal, seawater, and most importantly solar energy. It’s adherence to the increasingly-raised international standards of corporate governance, in addition to its approach towards shareholder assurance, have made it one of the most trustworthy and respected businesses in Spain.

Abengoa’s reputation is founded on its cornerstone aim to achieve excellence in its technological expertise and development, and its desire to expound the advantages of solar power.

Abengoa also boasts an impressive portfolio of proprietary concession assets that are governed by long-term sales agreements with formats such as take-or-pay contracts, tariff contracts or Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). This includes the operation of electricity-generation plants and transmission lines.

Abengoa manages power transmission assets across Latin America, with both public and private transmission line concessions in Peru, Chile and Brazil.

The firm also specialises in the promotion, development and exploitation of water treatment plants and membrane technology, and is also current market leader in desalination plants. The company has invested heavily in the water treatment sector, and today operates its water business on four continents. In addition to its headquarters in Seville and Madrid, the company has offices in Texas and in Beijing, as well as the offices of concessionaire companies and projects in Algeria, India and also in China.