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This article was published on September 19, 2023

Europe’s largest solar thermal energy plant opens in Belgium

The plant uses mirrors to make heat


Europe’s largest solar thermal energy plant opens in Belgium

Dutch packaging and materials manufacturer Avery Dennison has opened what it claims to be Europe’s largest concentrated solar thermal platform and storage unit at its factory in Turnhout, Belgium.  

The new thermal solar energy plant comprises 2,240 surface mirrors, with a peak energy yield of 2.7GWh thermal power. It also contains six thermal modules that store energy for when the sun isn’t shining.  

Concentrated thermal solar power harnesses sunlight by using mirrors to beam it onto a receiver, which heats a fluid to generate high-temperature steam, driving a turbine which, in turn, produces electricity.

An image of the new solar thermal plant in turnhout, belgium
Europe’s largest concentrated solar thermal (CST) platform and thermal storage unit at Avery Dennison’s production plant in Turnhout, Belgium. Credit: Avery Dennison

The manufacturing and production sector accounts for one-fifth of global carbon emissions and 54% of the world’s energy usage. By transitioning to renewable energies, manufacturers like Avery Dennison look to cut their operational emissions in line with the EU’s target to reach net zero across all industries by 2050, or earlier. 

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Now operational, the new installation in Belgium will provide heat equivalent to 2.3GWh of gas consumption, reducing the plant’s greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 9% annually. However, it is expected to provide up to 100% of the factory’s heating demand during the sunnier summer months. 

“Investments in innovative renewable energy sources, like this project in Turnhout, will lower our carbon output and have a positive effect on climate change,” commented Belgium’s Minister for Energy, Tinne Van der Straeten.

Most of the heat will be used to run the factory’s drying ovens, which are used to produce adhesive products. These products are critical in industries such as automotive, building and construction, medical devices, and personal care. 

The project is a collaboration with Belgian solar thermal specialists Azteq, Norwegian thermal energy storage firm EnergyNest, and local community group Campina Energie, which helped secure a portion of the project financing. Additional funding was secured through the EU’s Horizon 2020 research program and the Flemish Government via its so-called Green Heat initiative.

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