World's First Hybrid Solar Power Plant to be Built With Custom Aluminum Frames From Hydro

Hydro’s Extrusion Americas unit has signed an agreement with Florida Power and Light (FPL) to supply custom aluminum extrusions for the first hybrid solar/fossil fuel energy generating facility in the world. When it comes online in early 2010, the Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center will produce 75MW. It will be the world’s second-largest solar plant and the largest outside of California.

The Indiantown, Florida facility will employ concentrated solar power (CSP) technology to produce electricity. This process uses parabolic mirrors capture solar heat, which produces steam that turns a generating turbine.

Hydro will produce the frames, supports, legs and connectors that will raise the 180,000 curved mirrors off the ground and allow them to track the sun throughout the day. Manufacturing plants in St. Augustine, Florida and Belton, South Carolina will supply the parts, provide fabricating and coordinate just-in-time deliveries for the frames used in 500-acre collecting field.

“Being in Florida was important to securing this agreement,” said Matt Dionne, Hydro’s southeast regional VP. “It means that less energy is used and fewer emissions released to transport parts to FPL’s location. It also helps focus the positive economic contribution from this project in Florida.”

The extruded aluminum frames are lightweight, yet provide enough torsional strength to withstand hurricanes. The manufacturing process allows the frames, which contain a high percentage of recycled aluminum, to be machined to precise tolerances for quick assembly.

“With this project Hydro is transferring technology gained on its prior CSP projects from its Phoenix plant to its Belton and St. Augustine plants,” Allan Bennett VP, solar market development for Hydro Extrusions America. “That gives Hydro technical competence and capacity across the country to serve the solar market as it grows.

“When this project is complete our portfolio will include aluminum support structures using in generating nearly 300 megawatts of electricity via concentrating solar power, more than any other company in the world.”

The solar energy generation system will connect to FPL’s existing combined-cycle power plant, allowing the solar thermal capacity to directly displace fossil fuel. The plant will use less fossil fuel during daylight hour when the solar system is helping produce the steam needed to generate electricity. It will produce approximately 155,000 MW of power annually, enough power to serve about 11,000 homes.

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