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Investing for the futureFlagsol uses AVEVA engineering tools for solar power plant designEvery year, the sun transmits over a billion terawatt-hours of energy to the earth, yet only a small fraction of this is used as a source of energy. Solar thermal power plants are a future-oriented solution to this waste. The AVEVA Plant solution guides the designers of these power plants through the detailed planning steps up to commissioning.A futuristic landscape in the middle of the desert in Andalucía - a giant array of shiny silver mirrors with seemingly endless tube systems glistens in the shimmering air. In fact, when it comes to energy generation, the future is already here, in the province of Granada. The three Andasol power plants are the first parabolic trough power plants in Europe and, in terms of collector surface, they constitute the world's largest solar power plant.Flagsol, a subsidiary of the Solar Millennium Group, has its headquarters in Cologne, Germany. The company is, among other things, responsible for the engineering of the solar array, the core element of the power plant. This consists of many parallel rows of solar collectors, arranged in a north/south direction, tracking the solar curve from east to west. 20AVEVA World Magazine 2011|Issue 2The Andasol parabolic trough power plants, located in the province of Granada in southern Spain, will generate an output of 50MW each, supporting 600,000 people. The Andasol 1 and Andasol 2 plants have begun operating and Andasol 3 is currently under construction. Photograph courtesy of Solar Millennium AG / Paul Langrock.

Ever since 2007, Flagsol has been using AVEVA PDMS, a 3D design system, to dimension and design the solar array. Before that, the solar experts relied on a CAD tool, which was close to the limit of its capabilities. Daniel Müllenborn, responsible for CAD usage at Flagsol, explains, 'We required software which was capable of handling large volumes of data and which could be used for international projects.' For over 30 years PDMS has proved its worth, handling both small-scale change projects and the new-build construction of large industrial plants. It offers vital features such as error correction, revision management and change control. 'We first tested the software here in Cologne and later received training courses at AVEVA,' Daniel Müllenborn says, describing the decision-making process. After these test runs, Flagsol decided to commit to PDMS. Productive use of the software started soon afterwards - in fact, Andasol 3, the third parabolic trough power plant, was designed using PDMS. 'There is always a learning curve,' Daniel Müllenborn remembers with regard to the start-up phase - but he is keen to emphasise that the company had no regrets about this change.Quick results despite a complex projectDuring the course of the project, the team increasingly explored the full functionality of PDMS. Today, the tool is mostly used for tubing system planning, as well as steel and concrete construction. AVEVA World Magazine 2011|Issue 221Background: solar thermal power plants'Solar thermal power plant' is a collective term covering various types of technology, all of them based on solar radiation being transformed into heat to generate electric energy. The thermal energy produced in this way reaches temperatures well in excess of 100°C and is usually released to a steam circuit. Just as in conventional power plants, the steam is used in a turbine to generate electricity.A parabolic trough solar collector unit is 12 metres long and weighs around 2.5 tons. More than 7000 collectors are installed at the Andasol 3 plant. Photograph courtesy of Solar Millennium AG / Paul Langrock.