Interview with Christine Crowe, R & D Project Manager at Rackam, who explains this project that will keep the company busy for much of 2018.
Christine, why is this project in Brazil unprecedented in Rackam's history?
This project represents 12,000 m² of parabolic concentrators that Rackam will produce. It is a project that is also very exciting at the technical level: we will produce a solar cogeneration system from the sun's energy, producing both heat and electricity for a Brazilian industry (Solar Combined Heat and Power, solar CHP). This is a world first for an installation of this kind: use only parabolic solar concentrators to make heat and power with an ORC (Organic Rankine Cycle) for industrial processes. Rackam designed a competitive priced concentrator that makes a solar cogeneration project like this one viable and attractive.
What does this project consist of, how was it attributed to Rackam?
Termopernambuco (Neoenergia) is a group from the electrical sector present in Brazil and in all of Latin America. For this project, Neoenergia leads an industrial consortium of 19 energy actors in Brazil, all of whom are financial partners of the project. The consortium won a government tender for ANEEL, the National Electricity Agency in Brazil. Rackam's technology was in the proposal of this consortium to offer a solar thermal heat & power plant capable of supplying an industrial food dryer. The direct end user is the Santa-Efigenia farm in Jaborandi in the state of Bahia. This agribusiness company owns the land where the industrial dryer is located. The farm produces tobacco and grains that must be dried before export.
For this project, the solar heat produced will therefore be used to power the customer's drying process and thus save a considerable amount of fossil fuels each year, reducing the plant's environmental impact and its production of greenhouse gases. At the logistical level, the solar power plant will limit the importation of diesel trucks to this remote region of Brazil and thus empower production by limiting its fossil fuel demand. In addition, the solar field will be paired with a Rankine generating station that will generate electricity for the pumps and the farm's electricity grid.
The solar power plant will be able to supply a power of 5.16 MWth and 0.5 MWe to the industrial customer, Santa Efigenia. There will also be a thermal storage system that will allow the Rankine plant to operate during periods with or without sun and offer 3 hours of electricity independently. Finally, the project will be accompanied by a research component in collaboration with the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE). This project will help to launch the solar thermal industry in Brazil and facilitate a transfer of knowledge and exchange.
Christine Crowe, Photo Credit: Rackam
What possibilities does this bring to Rackam for the future?
- Our expertise will be advertised on a big stage in South America and worldwide for projects of several MW. Therefore, we will be more competitive with similar contracts. This project will also be a powerful demonstration platform for Rackam to carry out desalination projects of a similar scale (5 MW th). Indeed, for the desalination projects, the technical solution offered by Rackam includes the same elements as for this Brazilian project (production of heat, electricity and thermal storage)
- This project will allow us to further develop our thermal storage solutions, using an innovative process developed for this project.
- This project will also optimize our S30 collector, the largest of Rackam's fleet.
- We also want to improve our media visibility and exposure to this Brazilian project: we want to create a specific blog, regularly communicate the progress of the work, etc. This way, those directly included such as the contracting parties may follow the project, students at the university or future clients even. It's an opportunity to create transparency and enthusiasm as we deliver various milestones.
- Finally, for this project, we completely reorganized our production: we can now deliver 70,000 m² of mirrors per year.
Does Rackam specialize in international projects? Is Brazil an interesting market?
Brazil is an incredible market for solar thermal, we already have a sales representative there as well as an industrial partner. We are currently analyzing 6 potential projects in Brazil in the field of thermal energy, desalination but also in the solar treatment of water and sewage sludge.
In Mexico too, the opportunities are immense, and the market is very ripe for industrial solar thermal energy: due to the level of interest in Mexico, we are planning to open a Rackam-Mexico branch. It is obvious that countries like Brazil, Mexico and even Spain have more solar potential. These countries also have great economic potential with strong growth, which presents many opportunities. But in some areas, such as solar sludge treatment, there seems to be good economic potential even here in Canada and in northern countries.
Where are we now in this project at Rackam, what are the next steps?
The detailed engineering was delivered in September and we began production in October. The installation of the first calibration row of our S30 large-scale collector for Neoenergia is underway, and will be installed in December at our factory in Valcourt (Canada).
The first container will be shipped in early January and arrive a month later in Brazil. The preparation of the site will begin in March and the construction of the thermal power plant is expected to start in June 2018. We are planning 8 months of assembly, and commissioning at the end of the year 2018.
For more information:
(ENG) Christine Crowe, R & D Project Manager at Rackam: firstname.lastname@example.org
(FR) Joséanne Bélanger Gravel, Director of Business Development: email@example.com