Here comes the sun

By John Loos

September 2009- Solar power isn't just for watches and pocket calculators. Plants around the globe have turned the sun's rays into countless megawatts of electricity, taking advantage of a boundlessly renewable natural resource most of us simply see as daylight.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, Washington, D.C., aside from everyday uses such as the lighting or heating of a building, the sun's power can be harnessed through photovoltaics, which converts light into electricity. There's also a process known as concentrating solar power, in which a reflector and a receiver work in tandem to absorb reflected and refocused solar radiation. And according to the U.S Department of Energy, the United States produced 72.87 quadrillion BTUs of solar energy in 2007, although that figure remains less than 2 percent of the country's total energy output.

Helping boost that figure is the Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center, Indiantown, Fla., which will come online in 2010 and will be the world's first hybrid solar facility connected to an existing combined-cycle power plant. It will produce 75 megawatts of electricity annually through the use of more than 180,000 curved mirrors to track the sun.

Constructing this sizable project, however, takes an enormous amount of aluminum, which Norsk Hydro ASA, Oslo, Norway--specifically produced at its Hydro Extrusions Americas unit--is more than happy to supply.

Using aluminum
Hydro is providing the Martin facility with frames, supports, legs and connectors to lift the 180,000 curved mirrors and enable them to move with the sun. However, to harness the Sunshine State's bountiful solar potential, the facility needed to be built tough enough to handle Florida's other infamous weather phenomenon: hurricanes. Hydro's extruded aluminum frames are designed to be lightweight and durable, with enough torsional strength to resist the immense winds generated by a gulf storm.

This type of project is nothing new for Hydro. Supplying renewable energy projects with aluminum is a prominent part of its business. In fact, its aluminum frames are being used at facilities that, combined, generate nearly 300 megawatts of electricity.

"Hydro Aluminum has a long history with renewable energy," says Allan Bennett, vice president of solar market development for Hydro. "The company name comes from the hydro-electric power we have been using [and are still using] for nearly 100 years. Hydro is already present in the solar industry through its joint ventures in thin-film photovoltaics, ingots and wafers, and a poly-silicon plant. Also, Hydro's Building Systems division is on the leading edge of building-integrated solar applications. Expanding our presence by supplying extruded aluminum to the CSP utility-scale solar projects makes good sense. Our Extrusion Americas division has already done four CSP plants."

The company is currently working on its fifth project.

In a white paper regarding aluminum's advantage in CSP applications, Hydro highlights the metal's stiffness, mobility, weight, strength, modularity and ease of fabrication as factors that make it ideal for building support structures for solar plants.

"There's quite a bit that we feel is special about our extrusions," says Bennett. "These designs provide the strength needed to withstand environmental wear and tear, but they're easier and quicker to install than steel structures. That means less equipment and fewer man-hours to get the solar field built, which reduces cost."

But what really stands out about Hydro's aluminum extrusions, in Bennett's mind, is their sustainability.

"They have around 75 percent post-industrial recycled content in them, with no degradation of mechanical properties," he says. "In addition, that recycled content gives the production of the extrusions a smaller carbon footprint than competing materials."

For Hydro, combining an environmentally conscious metal with clean energy applications is a smart pairing. And, just as with increasing popular solar energy solutions, it looks like Hydro's aluminum extrusions will continue to benefit from sunny days ahead. MM












mm sm ed cal banner330px 2016

MM Cover ZFold11 15 digital email

vert-current-linewhiteNovember 2015

Altitude adjustment

Rolls-Royce joins Purdue University in fostering aerospace research.


Instagram - @ModernMetalsMag

MIDWEST register deadline3

Modern Metals on Twitter


Industry Partners


PNC BankDoALL Sawing ProductsStraub Metal International


Executive Search Services

Sawing Technology

Stainless Steel

Aluminum USA 2015 Leadership Search Group Advanced Machine & Engineering Rolled Alloys
Kaiser Aluminum

Financial Services

Behringer Saws, Inc. Scan Tube/Nebetco Stainless
Sapa Extrusions North America BMO Harris Bank Cosen International, Inc. Stainless Sales Corporation
Gerdau Special Steel North America

Industrial Contracting Solutions


Stainless Steel Service Center

CNC Cutting (Plasma, Waterjet, Laser, Router)

Delta Industrial HE&M Saw Comprinox
Multicam Inc.

Laser Technology


Stainless, Nickel, Aluminum, Pipe, Tube & Bar

Coated Coil

Amada America, Inc. Kasto Inc. Prudential Stainless & Alloys, L.P.
Centria Coating Services Mazak Optonics Corp. KMT Saw


Coil Coatings

Machining Centers

Lenox Alliance Steel LLC
Chemcoaters Handtmann CNC Metlsaw Systems Central Steel Service, Inc.

Coil Processing

Material Handling Pacesetter Steel Service, Inc.
Applefelt Combilift USA Scotchman Industries, Inc. Parker Steel Co.
Bradbury Group Samuel Strapping Systems Specialty Saw Inc. SSAB
Braner USA Steel Storage Systems Inc.

Service Centers

Steel Dynamics, Inc.
Butech Bliss Walker Magnetics North American Steel Alliance

Thickness Gauges


Milling Machinery

Reliance Steel & Aluminum Co. Advanced Gauging Technologies
Formtek Maine Amada Machine Tools America, Inc. United Performance Metals


Machine Concepts

Perforated & Expanded Metal


Carlson Tool & Manufacturing Corp.
Red Bud Industries McNichols Co. Compusource Corporation

Tube & Pipe

Copper & Brass


Enmark Systems, Inc. Independence Tube Corp.
Christy Metals Inc. Allor Manufacturing Inc.


Specialty Pipe & Tube, Inc.
Concast Metal Products Churchill Steel Plate Ltd Venus Stainless NA Yoder
Farmer's Copper



Tube Mill Equipment & Machinery

National Bronze & Metals








GRB Innovations LLC



OMAX Corporation








Koike Aronson




XRF Analyzer




Olympus Scientific Solutions Americas


Instagram Icon Large twitter facebook linkedin rss

MM 1115 brandingcovers