Bright ideas

Jon Lawson

Liam Jones explains how advanced actuators are proving popular in the rapidly growing global solar power sector

With a growing global call for the reduction of non-renewable energy use, solar power is pushing its way further and further to the forefront of public consciousness as a viable way of powering both homes and businesses.

As of 2011 the technology was producing less than one tenth of energy around the world, but there is increasing demand as consumers begin to recognise its long-term benefits. In 2010 there was around 50GW of solar power capacity globally – this shot up to more than 305GW in 2016.

Renewables are the fastest-growing sector in the power industry and are expected to continue to thrive around the world as developing countries begin seeking out carbon-neutral energy alternatives.

While Rotork can help with the design, construction and improve efficiency at traditional power plants, the company also assists operators with the technology used to run solar, biomass or geothermal power.

As well as keeping pace with new energy solutions to keep power running at facilities such as wind farms, hydroelectric and biomass plants, Rotork has an extensive range of products dedicated to supporting concentrated solar power (CSP) plants.

Carried out on a large scale, CSP is a technique used to generate heat from direct sunlight that in turn produces electricity. The process involves lengthy troughs of parabolic mirrors that focus sunlight onto a pipe filled with heat transfer fluid (HTF) running through the focal point of the mirror. These pipes carry the HTF, normally oil, between the mirrors, the steam plant and power generation circuits.


One project using this solar power solution is the giant Noor I CSP Farm in Morocco, the first phase of a Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy scheme to provide renewable energy for millions of people.

More than 500 Rotork electric and pneumatic valve actuators have been installed at the now completed site, mainly to operate isolating and regulating valves on the HTF pipework.
Earlier in 2018 Rotork also worked with the owner of two solar power plants in Spain to install hundreds of IQ3 actuators on each site.

The multi-turn electric actuators were fitted with Rotork Pakscan two-wire digital control systems, which provide automatic network monitoring and fault management.

Each digital network comprises a Rotork Master Station that is capable of controlling up to 240 actuators on a bus loop of up to 20km in length, with no drop off in communication performance.

These actuators allow individual HTF pipes to be automatically isolated when essential maintenance is required, thus also improving safety.

Liam Jones is with Rotork

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