ABU DHABI -- Torresol Energy has borrowed €171 million to complete construction of its first power plant to use the sun’s heat to generate electricity.

Formed last year by Masdar in Abu Dhabi and Sener in Spain, Torresol now has the entire €240 million it needs to build the 17-megawatt solar thermal power plant called Gemasolar, said Manuel Fernandez, chief financial officer at Torresol Tuesday.

Torresol, based in Madrid, started building its Gemasolar plant last November, and is scheduled to complete the project in the first quarter of 2011. The €171 million is coming from Banco Popular, Banesto and the Instituto de Credito Oficial. The rest of the €240 million is equity coming from Torresol, Fernandez said.

Torresol is a joint venture between Masdar, owned by the Abu Dhabi government, and Sener, an engineering firm with a 60 percent stake in Torresol. Abu Dhabi is using Masdar as an investment and power plant development vehicle to get a slice of the growing renewable energy market around the world (see Abu Dhabi Picks Suntech, First Solar For 10MW Solar Farm in Masdar City).

Masdar and the Abu Dhabi government have been using the World Future Energy Summit to announce their efforts on investing and building renewable energy projects. Abu Dhabi organized the summit partly to highlight its initiatives to develop a new type of energy economy that doesn’t rely on oil. As a wealthy oil-producing country that launched Masdar only in 2006, it likes to do things on a grand scale.

Gemasolar, located in southern Spain, will use a type of solar-thermal technology that uses heliostats, or an array of flat mirrors, to focus the sun’s light onto a central collector atop a tower and use it to heat up the molten salt to more than 550 Celsius.

The salt is good at storing the heat, so the power plant operator can use the heated salt even at night to run the generator.

Torresol is one of many companies developing this type of solar thermal power projects. Competitors in the field include Abengoa Solar, a large solar player also based in Spain.

Torresol also is developing two other solar thermal power plants that will use the more conventional parabolic trough technology. The technology uses curved mirrors to channel the sun’s heat to boil oil for steam generation.

The two power plants, with a 50-megawatt capacity each, will sit next to each other in southern Spain as well, near the town of Jerez. Torresol plans to raise between €500 million and €600 million total for the two projects, Fernandez said.

Construction for the plants is scheduled to begin in the second half of this year.