They look like spaceships. They can be recognised from afar, due to the high tower that stands out clearly through the clean air, and the intense light of the rays that seem to emanate from the structures, which are clearly perceptible even in broad daylight. They have names like Xlna Solar, Cre­scent, PS20, Gemasolar, Noor and Themis, names that sound as if they are straight out of a sci-fi film or an Isaac Asimov novel. But they really do have a genuine connection with the future, both ours and that of our planet, because they are the names of new solar power plants that use CSP (Concentrated Solar Power) techno­logy. Conventional photovoltaic cells operate based on the principle of the photoelectric effect: when sunlight strikes the silicon in the cell, energy is released. Part of this energy is tran­sformed into an electrical pulse that is conveyed to accumulators or fed into the grid. However, photovoltaic cells have significant limitations: part of the energy the produce is inevitably lost. Furthermore, they can only operate when there is sunlight, so no energy can be produced at night or when clouds are blocking the sun.

This problem is circumvented with CSP technology which generates solar power, not by using sunlight, but by using the heat generated by the sun.

Parabolic reflectors concentrate sunlight onto a single point that reaches a temperature of over 400 degrees, enough to melt a mixture of salts. The melted mixture can retain he accumulated heat over time, keeping it at a high temperature tor over i 2 hours. The heat stored in the mixture is used to produce steam 24 hours a day, which in turn drives turbines to generate electricity around the clock. CSP plants are a fundamental part of the DESERTEC programme, an ambitious and futuristic project conceived in 1986 after the Chernobyl accident, which highlighted the need to find al­ternative energy sources to nuclear po­wer and oil. Based on the premise that in just six hours, the world's deserts receive more energy from the sun than humans consume in a year, the DE­SERTEC network of CSP plants, once completed, could supply clean and unlimited energy to the whole of Euro­pe and North Africa forever. Countries in North Africa and the Middle East (especially oil-producing countries seem to be taking the lead in this solar energy revolution-both because they are aware that fossil fuel resources are dwindling, and because of their advan­tageous geographical position near the equator-by recently embarking on a massive programme to build new and advanced solar power plants.

At one such new plant in the Middle East, one of our Hercules 190.10 telehandlers is being used to install hundreds of lar­ge parabolic reflectors. Each reflector is a bulky yet delicate mirror packed with advanced technology, weighing 5 tonnes and measuring over 4 me­tres long, which can automatically fol­low the course of the sun throughout the daytime, so that the solar rays are always directed on the focal point. Weight is no problem for a vehicle like Hercules, which is capable of easily lifting up to 19,000 kg, but to install such a large number of reflectors, we needed to create a dedicated acces­sory in the form of a hydraulic gripper, to grasp the reflector unit and position it correctly and undamaged onto the supports. This mission was accompli­shed with flying colours thanks to the synergy between Faresek (the Spa­nish company that produces the grip­per) and the DIEC! Technical Rese­arch and Development Office, which develops and tests the most suitable solutions to meet customer needs. DIECl's commitment to research has also led to external partnerships with major innovation leaders such as Bosch Rexroth (for transmissions) and Dana (for axles), which have spawned some of DIECl's top-selling models. Successfully interfacing a vehicle and a new accessory is an extremely com­plex operation that involves taking into account numerous factors such as di­mensions, weights, centres of gravity, load points, electrical systems, vol­tages, hydraulic systems, pump flow rate, safety limits and much more besides. In order to optimise such an in­tricate combination of equipment. the Research and Development Technical Office was required to analyse all the aforementioned factors, creating new management software so that the ac­cessory could be remotely controlled, and new load diagrams specifically for the reflectors to be installed.

The result can be seen in these ima­ges, evidence of an undertaking that involves not just 140 of our models, but also the expertise of our Technical Office, which responds to every par­ticular application need with customi­sed, cutting-edge solutions.

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