SA lines up Africa’s biggest solar complex


1 November 2013

A consortium led by Spanish company Abengoa has been selected as a preferred bidder by South Africa’s Department of Energy to build a second 100 megawatt (MW) concentrating solar power plant near Pofadder in the Northern Cape province.

The department is scheduled to officially announce the preferred bidders on Monday for the third round of its renewable energy programme for independent power producers, which aims to add 17 800 MW from renewable sources to South Africa’s energy mix by 2030.

Abengoa, which was confirmed on Tuesday as one of the preferred bidders, is currently building a 50 MW solar tower plant near Upington, also in the Northern Cape, and a 100 MW parabolic trough solar plant, dubbed KaXu Solar One, near Pofadder.

The company said on Tuesday that the new parabolic trough solar plant, Xina Solar One, would be located alongside KaXu Solar One, with construction expected to start in 2014, and that the two 100 MW plants would “jointly shape the largest solar complex in Africa”.

Abengoa will control 40% of the consortium that owns Xina Solar One, with the rest controlled by the state-owned Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) and the KaXu Community Trust.

According to Abengoa, Xina Solar One will produce sufficient clean energy to power approximately 90 000 households while reducing South Africa’s carbon dioxide emissions by up to 315 000 tons annually.

“Additionally, the construction, operation and maintenance of the plant will stimulate regional socio-economic development by creating numerous direct and indirect jobs, as well as a supply chain that will foster economic growth in the country,” the company said in a statement.

Abengoa CEO Manuel Sanchez Ortega said the project once again illustrated “the maturity of solar-thermal technology, which can be efficiently stored and used when it is needed.

“We are extremely satisfied with the trust that has been placed in us by the South African government and the partners that accompany us in this project,” Ortega added.

Parabolic trough technology employs parabolic-shaped mirrors that are set on a structure so they can track the movement of the sun and concentrate solar radiation onto a receiving tube. Inside the tube, a heat-absorbing fluid flows and reaches high temperatures. This fluid transfers the thermal energy to a heat exchanger, and then is used to heat water into steam, which ultimately drives a turbine to generate electricity.

Abengoa said Xina Solar one would incorporate a five-hour thermal energy storage system using a set of thermal storage tanks filled with molten salts. This would give the plant the ability to generate electricity after sunset or during cloudy periods, in addition to the ability to adapt energy production to the peaks of demand.

SAinfo reporter