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24 ENERGY • ACS-Cobra

2 ENERGY • ACS-Cobra

ACS-Cobra 002
Energy Innovations
on a Global Scale
JANUARY 2010 • The International Resource Journal 3
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The thermal solar industry may have been

gathering weight and recognition as of late,
but now a new breakthrough from Cobra,
a Madrid-based arm of the ACS Group,
the international expert engineering,
operations, installation and maintenance
services company, is set to pave the way for
realizing the operational potential of this
renewable energy resource.
6 ENERGY • ACS-Cobra

ACS-Cobra has achieved dispatchable solar ther- solar thermal, for the 2020 renewable energy tar-
mal power through its heat storage facilities be- gets, for the cooperation of the international power
ginning with its landmark power plant, Andasol 1, market and the other ground-breaking projects in
near Guadix in Granada, Spain. Andasol signals a development at ACS-Cobra.
new chapter for solar thermal and our worldwide
ability to store renewable power and, consequent- Developing ACS-Cobra and ESTELA.
ly, achieve a virtually zero carbon electricity supply. Nebrera has been working in the energy business
Jose Alfonso Nebrera, Director General of ACS- since completing his studies in engineering in
Cobra, spoke to IRJ about what Andasol means for 1974. During this time, he has seen the evolu-
Engineering Execution of turn key projects
Manufacturing of capital goods and erection and maintenance of industrial facilities

Among the activities developed by IMASA for ACS – COBRA Group, we can highlight the following:




“IMASA has departments specialised in the supply and erection of thermal

and acoustic insulation and refractories”.

Imasa Ingeniería y Proyectos, S.A.

Palacio Valdés, 1
33002 – Oviedo (Asturias – Spain)
tel: +34 985 51 18 83
8 ENERGY • ACS-Cobra

tion of ACS-Cobra from an excellent, but relatively I’ve been in the company for more than 21
small, local contractor, to a world leader in energy years now. Cobra became part of the ACS Group
related construction and services. In the last few around 1992, and from that moment on, I’ve
years, he devoted a large portion of his time to been involved in the ACS energy business,”
the C.S.P. industry, as co-founder of Protermoso- he recalls.
lar; the Spanish Concentrated Solar Power Indus- “We first started here in Spain by promoting
try Association, and ESTELA, or, the European the Andasol plants which we took over from So-
Solar Thermal Electricity Association (of which he lar Millennium in around 2003. They were trying
is president today). to develop the projects, but they didn’t have the
“I started in the construction of nuclear financial capacity or technical credibility with
power plants for a large portion of my career, the Spanish authorities to create the proper
and I started working for Cobra back in 1988. legal framework.”
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10 ENERGY • ACS-Cobra

ACS-Cobra made an agreement with Solar

Millennium and subsequently, through the then
just born Protermosolar, created by ACS, SENER
[SENER Ingeniería y Sistemas S.A] and Abengoa
Solar, agreed with the Spanish ministry on the
legal framework to make the promotion of Anda-
sol and other plants possible with the necessary
level of feed-in tariff.
“By 2007, and following a suggestion from
Schott Solar, we decided that it was a good time
to start a new European association for the im-
merging solar thermal industry, which we called
ESTELA, and I became the president at that
time,” Nebrera says.
“ESTELA is now one of the main parties to
discuss solar thermal related issues with the
European Union institutions. We have a lot of in-
terchange with the European Commission. That
means that the president has to spend a lot of
his time with ESTELA activities, which means
that probably 30 per cent of my time is spent
with ESTELA.”
Today, ESTELA takes part in the discussion,
development and promotion of a multitude of solar
thermal issues, both within Europe and worldwide,
including the leadership of the Solar Industry
Initiative of the E.U. Strategic Energy Plan, multiple
contributions to the Mediterranean Solar Plan or
the development of a C.S.P. Cost Roadmap.
JANUARY 2010 • The International Resource Journal 11
12 ENERGY • ACS-Cobra

around the world,” he explains.

“We’re presently one of the main owners
[companies] of thermal solar. We have 150 MW
of thermal solar plants operating, the two Anda-
sol and one Extresol plant. In fact, we’re the only
company with dispatchable thermal solar plants
operating, and I guess we’ll be this way for the next
year or so.”
Nebrera says that there are plants being
built in Spain which come complete with stor-
“The activity and role of ESTELA is more age, however those will not be finished until
intense than ever before, and it will grow as around the end of 2010. Meanwhile, ACS-Cobra
energy becomes more and more of a priority for continues to build and improve on its own solar
the E.U. political, social and economy scenario,” thermal plant projects.
Nebrera says. “We are building another four plants of the
same kind and with the same characteristics, with
ACS-Cobra’s renewable energy projects incremental improvements in technology and cost
Nebrera says that for the most part, ACS-Cobra’s reduction, with a total investment in the seven
energy projects are executed within the compa- plants of more than €2 billion,” Nebrera says.
ny’s industrial branch, ACS S.C.E. “Simultaneously, we’re working on the design
“A large portion of our €7.5 billion per year of the next generation of plants that will contain
revenue is in the world of energy—electricity, different features from the ones we’re building
gas, virtually any aspect of the energy business. now. We’re not linked to any particular technolo-
A large and growing portion of that is our work gies. For example, we’re working in one tower pow-
within renewables. From a renewables point of er plant in association with SENER, which is being
view, we are very much involved in wind farms built in the Seville province for Torresol, a company
and C.S.P. We have something like 1.3 gigabytes owned by SENER and MASDAR from Abu Dhabi.
of wind farms in operation, mainly in Spain, It’s a 17 MW power plant and it’s a very interest-
and we’re promoting projects in other countries ing technology as well, with higher tempearatures
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14 ENERGY • ACS-Cobra

and 15 hours storage. We’re also working for other we expect to gain by March 2010, and for the time
clients in power generation construction in many being we are progressing with the fabrication of
different technologies,” he continues. the jackets and the platforms,” he says.
ACS-Cobra has been working on the Castor “We have already sub-contracted the pipe con-
offshore Underground Gas-Storage (U.G.S.) project, nection from the platforms to the onshore facility,
located off Spain’s east coast, for the past three and we have also gained the contract for that on-
years. In May, 2009, the company was able to shore facility. Basically, we have contracted or sub-
launch the construction, and the storage will be- contracted around 85 to 90 per cent of the job.”
come operational in 2012, with a total investment Nebrera adds that despite the delicate finan-
of over €1.5 billion. cial aftermath of the global financial crisis, the
“Getting all of the necessary permits for the project financing for the Castor U.G.S. project will
project took a long time, as permitting is some- be a success and will set an important milestone
times even longer than the construction of the in the industry.
project itself. Now we have almost all of the per- “Putting together the banks and work on all of
mits we need, however, there are still some that the details in the financial contracts is taking quite
JANUARY 2010 • The International Resource Journal 15
16 ENERGY • ACS-Cobra

some time, but we expect to sign everything by the “This is a project of around $2 billion which
first quarter of 2010,” Nebrera says. will be developed over the next fifteen years. It’s
Meanwhile in Mexico, ACS-Cobra is working on a new approach to contracting using very intel-
a unique project which Nebrera says, from a com- ligent rules which were created by PEMEX for this
pany perspective, is very important in terms of the specific kind of job. This allows the company to
size and technology involved. profit from a large project which is financed by the
“It’s a project on the development of natural contractors, so we are financing all of the activity
gas fields for PEMEX in Mexico. We’re developing based on the actual value of the gas—which we
three large gas fields so far, where we are doing deliver to PEMEX.”
all of the drilling, wells construction and the as-
sociated infrastructure for the piping and facili- The Andasol breakthrough
ties and everything to deliver the clean gas to Of course, all of these latest projects come
PEMEX,” he reveals. after Andasol. Nebrera says that when ACS-
JANUARY 2010 • The International Resource Journal 17

Cobra took the project over, Solar Millennium Andasol has been in operation for one year
remained involved with a 25 per cent owner- now, and Nebrera stresses that this breakthrough
ship share. power plant ought to be understood worldwide
“We contracted as E.P.C. contractor a joint for what it proves: the successful storage of solar
venture of Cobra [80 per cent] and SENER [20 thermal energy.
per cent], and the E.P.C contractor sub-contracted “The heat storage is a novelty, something
to Flagsol, a sub company of Solar Millennium, entirely new in the thermal solar industry, and is
the engineering of the solar field and the H.T.F. working very well. This is very important for the
(Heat Transfer Fluid),” he says. future of how much thermal solar we can ac-
“A few months ago, we bought the remaining commodate in our electricity systems, because
25 per cent that was left under the ownership of it is already happening that solar thermal plants
Solar Millennium, so presently 100 per cent of are dispatchable. I think this is essential for the
the two plants are owned by Cobra.” future—not only for thermal solar as a technology




The goal is to use our human and engineering

capacities to offer competitive structural
systems and solar field assembly for any
concentrating solar power technologies
18 ENERGY • ACS-Cobra

but also for all of us in terms of the possibility of able good resource, in terms of radiation, or are
having, in the medium-term, a very low carbon close to deserts where the amount of radiation is
electricity supply,” he says. very high. That is Europe’s case,” he explains.
“I think that a number of very influential peo-
ple are not fully aware that this is happening. It is Actualizing energy potential:
important that everybody knows that heat storage solar thermal and beyond
in solar thermal plants is a reality, it is working very Consider hydro and biomass energies. They can
well and is a technology that is proven. It has to be be harnessed, stored, and dispatched when
improved but it is already working very well.” needed. The electricity from large hydro dams is
Nebrera says that the limitations of renew- fully dispatchable, and biomass can be burned
ables, such as the lack of predictability with as demand dictates. But Nebrera explains that
wind and running water plants, beg the ques- the only other renewable resource which can be
tion, “how much renewable-based energy can dispatched is solar, with a worldwide potential
be actually accommodated by the electricity which is several orders of magnitude above hydro
systems?” and biomass.
“We are already proving through the opera- “To have a lot of dispatchable solar within
tion of Andasol one and two, and now Extresol a relatively isolated system such as the Iberian
one, the answer is that thermo solar electricity Peninsula system, as Spain and Portugal are quite
can cover a lot of the future electricity needs of well integrated, would be beneficial in terms of the
countries or territories which already have a size- system security and stability, and it can help to ac-
JANUARY 2010 • The International Resource Journal 19

commodate additional amounts of non-dispatch- including and beyond harnessing solar thermal,
able sources, such as wind or P.V.,” he says. cooperation is key to achieving E.U. renewable
“In time, the interconnection of the European targets at a reasonable cost.
Baltic and Mediterranean countries (in a kind of “If you have to install a storage or back-up ca-
super grid) should be designed not to serve the pacity, for example in Spain, to accommodate the
needs of a specific country or region, as the pres- 40,000 MW of wind that some people are project-
ent national or regional grids do, but to transport ing for 2020 or 2025, it is going to cost a fortune.
large amounts of electricity from one corner of this If we were very well connected with the rest of
vast territory to the other, with acceptable losses.” Europe we would not need to cover the same back-
Nebrera says that the creation of this much- up or storage considerations,” Nebrera says.
discussed super grid would be of huge benefit to “The more wind energy is integrated into the
both the electricity market and the E.U. pursuit of grid, the more important is to share wind and all
the 2020 renewable energy goals. It appears that other resources such as solar and hydro amongst


Our a Company is specialized in design, construction, fabrication and

erection of big storage tanks and that has developed his own special
erection systems.
The main fields in which we are working are:
• Petrochemical – Classical tanks fixed and floating roof till a capacity of
150.000 CM.
• GNL Plants - Monesa has realized 8 GNL 150.000 CM tanks and is
erecting two more.
• Thermosolar Plants – Salt tanks (working temperature 400º C).
We are suppliers of ACS-COBRA Group and we have participated with
them in the GNL Plant of Sagunto (4 tanks) and Thermosolar Plants
(Andasol 2 Groups and Extresol 2 Groups).

Ercilla 15, Bilbao 48009 - SPAIN. Phone: 00 34 94 4240500. Fax: 00 34 94 4231721. E.Mail:

mone_anuncio.indd 3 13/12/09 19:21:59

20 ENERGY • ACS-Cobra

European and neighbouring countries—very impor- In light of the global financial crisis, Nebrera
tant in terms of reducing cost and improving our highlights regulation to be a driving force in moving
chances for getting to a low carbon economy in a on from the last two difficult years.
relatively short time.” “From the financing point of view, our percep-
Speaking of costing a fortune, cost must be tion is that things have improved within the last
considered a pivotal issue when looking at both four or five months, and will improve more in the
solar thermal energy potential in 2010 and look- next five or six months. By the end of 2010, we
ing ahead to 2020 goals. “Looking at how com- should be in more or less a business as usual situ-
ponents and materials costs are evolving, we are ation regarding the financial markets. That would
more optimistic in terms of the future cost de- be very good from the viewpoint of our activities
crease of the C.S.P. electricity, but we will have a and all of our colleague’s activities,” he says.
much more educated approach when we complete “But of course, this industry is going to need
the ESTELA´s cost roadmap in a few weeks.” some help for a number of years ahead, and


two of the member companies of
Asturiana Galvanizadora (AGALSA) is one of the
biggest hot dip galvanizing companies of Europe with
a galvanizing furnace of 15500 x 2300 x 3700mm.

Energía Gijón is an engineering company focused

into the manufacture of high precision metal galvanized
structures for solar fields with the most modern technol-
ogy equipment (cutting laser, welding robots)
JANUARY 2010 • The International Resource Journal 21

there is a lot of new regulation to be done be-

tween now and the end of 2010. Did you know
that there is a deadline of December 25, Christ-
mas Day, of 2010 which is the last day of the
transposition of the R.E.S. [Renewable Energy
Sources] Directive? There are crucial events in
Europe and worldwide which we are expecting
for 2010—a very interesting year in the after-
math of the Copenhagen meeting. If we, as Euro-
peans, are successful in promoting the changes
which are already there in the Directive, and
are to be implemented and made operational, I
think that a new era for European electricity will
appear very clearly—resulting in a lot of business
for companies like us, not only in generation but
also in transmission.”
Just as the super grid offers cooperative de-
velopment between the European Union (E.U.)
member countries- as well as neighbouring coun-
tries- towards achieving our 2020 targets, Nebrera
says that being based from Spain, a country rich in
natural renewable energy potential, could well play
in ACS-Cobra’s favour.
“We are convinced that in Spain, we’re lucky to
have a lot renewable resources, not only sun, but
wind also. We may have the possibility of cooperat-
ing with other European countries in achieving the
targets for 2020,” he says.
“Furthermore, our connection with Morocco
22 ENERGY • ACS-Cobra

Solar will be crucial in the initial stages of the Mediterra-

nean Solar Plan development (M.S.P.).”
He adds that the goals put forward by the Re-
newable Energy Directive are yet to be developed,
but this could well be done through transposing
them from the Directive through to the national
legislations of E.U. members.
“Once those mechanisms are transposed,
the market will appear for plants to be built, for
instance, in Spain, Greece, and Portugal, with an
aim to export part of the green rights associated
with the generation of electricity to countries like
Belgium or Luxembourg—countries which are prob-
ably short of internal resources to achieve their
targets,” he says.
“In our opinion, that could create a market for
Reflecting the Future. renewable energy plants to be built wherever
Concentrating on Success. there are lots of natural resources, then the
feed-in tariff and difference in cost would be
With our key competences in bending and coating
we put your vision in perspective. taken by the countries that don’t have the natu-
For more information about the highly efficient
solar mirrors for all CSP Applications visit: ral resources to achieve their goals, possibly
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So where can solar fit into this grand plan of
a brand new united electricity market? That is
where the potential for developing the Mediter-

FLABEG Holding GmbH

ranean solar plant steps in.
Waldaustraße ��, ����� Nürnberg, Germany
“The M.S.P. is an initiative of the Union for the
Mediterranean (U.f.M.) countries and presently the
JANUARY 2010 • The International Resource Journal 23

European Commission, and everybody is working “It’s here and it’s working. We have to improve
to make this plan possible. I think that there is a the performance and reduce the cost of the elec-
lot of political momentum around the convenience tricity produced and those are the challenges for
of going ahead with the Mediterranean Solar the future,” Nebrera says.
Plan,” Nebrera says. “Dispatchability is something that is already
“We expect to have something operational by proven and this is very essential for the future, not
the end of 2010 possibly and, through ESTELA only for this technology, but for renewable energy
and Protermosolar, we are working closely with the and electricity.”
Spanish presidency of the European Union, the Through their pioneering technology, expertise
European Commission and some of the Union for and sheer commitment to renewable innovation
the Mediterranean partners countries to acceler- which can benefit everyone worldwide, ACS-Cobra
ate as much as possible, the deployment of those is literally lighting our futures with its solar thermal
mechanisms that are envisaged in the directive to projects.
make the pioneering projects happen within the
next one to two years. I think that’s a major aspect
of the cooperation between Europe and the neigh-
bouring countries for the next decade, and we are
looking forward to the appointment of the U.f.M.
Secretariat to offer our ideas and help to
this endeavour.”

ACS-Cobra, solar thermal and beyond

When you consider the potential for far-reaching
change and development offered by the Andasol
one and two and Extresol solar thermal plants
today, it seems strange that still some influential
people remain unaware of how significant this
achievement is both for ACS-Cobra and for our
renewable futures.
JANUARY 2010 • The International Resource Journal 25