The Odeillo solar furnace is the world's largest solar furnace. It is situated in Font-Romeu-Odeillo-Via, in the department of Pyrénées-Orientales, in the south of France. It is 48 metres (157 ft) high and 54 metres (177 ft) wide, and includes 63 heliostats. It was built between 1962 and 1968, started operating in 1969, and has a power of one megawatt.
It serves as a science research site studying materials at very high temperatures.
In 1946 French chemist Felix Trombe and his team achieved in Meudon their first experience of using a DCA (French: Défense Contre Avions = anti-aircraft) mirror. They demonstrated the ability to reach high temperatures very quickly, and in a very pure environment, using highly concentrated sunlight. Their aim was to melt ore and extract highly pure materials for making new and improved refractories.
To achieve this objective and test the various possibilities, a first solar furnace was built at Mont-Louis in 1949. Some years later, on the model of the Mont-Louis furnace and using the results obtained there, a solar furnace of almost industrial size was built at Odeillo. Work on the construction of the Great Solar Oven of Odeillo lasted from 1962 to 1968, and it was commissioned in 1969.
Being strong supporters of solar power, following the first oil shock of 1973, researchers at the Odeillo solar furnace made further progress in the conversion of solar energy into electricity.