The Planta Solar 20 or PS20 solar power tower is a solar thermal energy plant in Sanlucar la Mayor near the southern Spanish city of Seville. It is the world's most powerful solar power tower. The 20 megawatt solar power tower produces electricity with large movable mirrors called heliostats.

Abengoa Solar has begun commercial operation of the giant new PS20 solar power tower located at the Solucar Platform, near Seville. With a generating capacity of 20 megawatts, the new power tower will produce enough solar energy to supply 10,000 homes.

During a three-day production and operational testing period last week, the PS20 surpassed the predicted power output, further validating the high potential of power tower technology, the company said in a statement.

"Generating more power during production testing than the design output is indeed a significant milestone," said Santiago Seage, CEO of Abengoa Solar. "The technological breakthroughs we have achieved, coupled with our cumulative expertise, have enabled us to take a qualitative leap forward in our power tower technology."

The world's second power tower plant in commercial use, PS20 features a number of technological improvements over PS10, Abengoa's and the world's first commercial power tower.

The power capacity of the PS20 is double that of the earlier power tower, and Abengoa Solar has put in a higher-efficiency receiver, improvements in the control and operational systems, and a better thermal energy storage system.

PS20 consists of a solar field made up of 1,255 mirrored heliostats. Each heliostat, with a surface area of 1,291 square feet, reflects the solar radiation it receives onto the receiver, located on the top of a 531 feet-high tower.

The concentrated heat produces steam, which is converted into electricity generation by a turbine.

Abengoa Solar says operation of PS20 will avoid the emission of approximately 12,000 tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that a fossil fuel-burning power plant would have produced.

The Solucar platform generates 300 megawatts from a variety of solar sources - 50 MW from tower technology, 250 MW from troughs, 1.2 MW produced by photovoltaic technology, and 80 MW from Stirling dish technology.

Located in Sanlucar la Mayor, the platform will have 300 MW of installed capacity when it is completed in 2013. At that point the company says it is expected to produce enough energy to supply 153,000 households, and will prevent the emission of 185,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year.

During the lifespan of the platform, the company says, it will reduce an estimated four million tons of carbon emissions.

The platform covers a land area of 800 hectares and will create 300 permanent jobs for a total investment of 1.2 billion Euros.

Besides the Solucar Platform, Abengoa Solar is building commercial solar power plants in Spain, Algeria, Morocco and the United States.

With U.S. headquarters in Lakewood, Colorado, last October Abengoa was awarded two research and development projects in the field of concentrating solar power that total over $14 million by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Under the first award, Abengoa aims to develop technology that will reduce the cost of thermal energy storage for parabolic trough-based concentrating solar power systems by 20 to 25 percent. Three other Energy Department contracts were awarded to Abengoa in December 2007 that are focused on developing more efficient parabolic trough technology.

Under the second 2008 contract Abengoa will investigate new technologies for integrating thermal energy storage with power tower systems.

"Thanks to support on both sides of the Atlantic," said Seage, "we will be able to offer energy solutions that are increasingly more clean and efficient."