Abu Dhabi’s alternative-energy initiative, Masdar, and the Spanish engineering group Sener Grupo de Ingeniería said Wednesday they have teamed up to bring more concentrating solar-power systems to the world’s sunbelt regions. 

The two have started the joint venture Torresol Energy, which will design, build and operate concentrating solar-power plants.

Sener owns the bulk of the newly minted company -- 60 percent -- while Masdar owns the rest.

Masdar is the United Arab Emirates city’s $15 billion investment into alternative energy. It will include a 6-square-kilometer city without cars within Abu Dhabi.

The new venture’s first order of business is for Torresol to start building three solar power plants in the south of Spain.

The company will tap two different types of solar technology that use the sun’s heat, instead of light, to produce electricity,

Two of the plants will deploy parabolic troughs, or curved mirrors used to generate steam that in turn powers a turbine to produce electricity.

The third plant will use a central tower receiver, where a field of mirrors reflects sun rays toward a water tower. As the water heats, it turns into steam, which can then be converted into electricity using a turbine.

Torresol claims it will be the first commercial-scale deployment of a central tower receiver system.

The three power plants are expected to have a total value of €800 million ($1.25 billion).

Torresol also claims it will have 500 megawatts of concentrating solar projects by 2012.

The company’s expansion plans include projects in southern Europe, northern Africa and the Middle East. Torresol also will try breaking into the U.S. market with tower systems in the Southeast.

Currently, there are only about 500 megawatts of concentrated solar power in global operation, said Travis Bradford, president of the Prometheus Institute and a Greentech Media partner, in February.

Torresol is just one of several companies vying to bring concentrated-solar electricity to the masses.

Over the past year
, the sector has generated several announcements, including Ausra scoring $40 million from high-profile venture backers Khosla Ventures and Kleiner Perkins, signing deals with Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and Florida Light and Power and announcing it is building the world’s largest solar-thermal manufacturing plant (see Ausra Raises $40M for Concentrating Solar-Thermal, Ausra to Build 177-Megawatt Solar-Thermal Plant and Ausra to Build World’s Largest Solar-Thermal Factory).

The sector grabbed even more attention in January when Google’s philanthropic arm doled out $10 million to solar-thermal developer eSolar (see Google Heats Up eSolar with $10M).

And more concentrated solar is expected to come online.

In February, Bradford estimated there were about 6 gigawatts of production in the "press-releases stage."

This means, at least in the United States, that projects could still get yanked.

According to the California Energy Commission, 12 percent of the renewable-energy contracts signed by publicly owned utilities since 2002 have been canceled and another 20 percent have been delayed.