Abengoa has started construction on South Africa’s first two utility-scale concentrating solar power (CSP) plants, to be equipped with the latest technology designed specifically to meet domestic operating conditions and power needs. Both the Khi Solar One and KaXu Solar One CSP plants will be able to store solar-generated energy and generate power after sunset, as well as employ advanced dry cooling technology to significantly reduce water consumption.
Khi Solar One is a 50 megawatt (MW) concentrating solar power tower, while the 100 MW KaXu Solar One is based on solar parabolic trough technology. Abengoa on Nov. 6 signed long-term power purchase agreements with South Africa’s state-owned power utility Eskom, and also concluded project finance agreements with a group of South African and international financial institutions, according to a company press release.
South Africa’s Ambitious Sustainable Energy Program Gains Steam
South Africa has set ambitious targets for solar and renewable energy growth as part of a broader sustainable development strategy. The SA Dept. of Energy expects to bring 17,800 MW of renewable energy online by 2030. SA’s Energy Minister recently announced approval of $5.4 billion for 28 solar, wind, and geothermal energy projects that are to add 1.4 gigawatts (GW) of clean, renewable power to the nation’s grid.
Partnering with Abengoa on the CSP projects is state-owned development finance institution Industrial Development Corp. (IDC). With a 51% equity stake in Khi Solar One and KaXu Solar One, Abengoa is building and will operate the plants. IDC holds a 29% equity interest, and domestic Black Economic Empowerment program owns the remaining 29%.
Located in the Northern Cape Province, Khi Solar One and KaXu Solar One will generate jobs, income, and tax revenue (as well as clean, renewable power) over the long run as South Africa — the largest CO2 emitter on the continent — seeks to develop socially and economically while at the same time avoiding further degradation of ecosystems and the myriad services they provide. The two CSP plants are expected to reduce CO2 emissions some 498,000 per annum while creating around 1,400 local jobs on average each year, peaking at about 2000 during the construction phases of the projects.
Aiming to minimize water use, both CSP plants will employ advanced dry cooling technology, which Abengoa says reduces water consumption by around 2/3 compared to other CSP plants (historically, one of CSP’s weaknesses compared to solar PV and wind power). The plants will also include energy storage capacity — about two hours’ worth for Khi Solar One and three hours for KaXu — which means Eskom will have greater flexibility and control over their power supplies, including being able to draw on and dispatch power from the plants to meet intermittent power demand after sunset.
US development finance institutions Overseas Private Investment Corp. (OPIC) on Sept. 17 announced it has approved up to $250 million in financing that will enable US-based solar photovoltaic (PV) cell and module manufacturer MEMC Electronic Materials and its solar installation and project development subsidiary SunEdison to build and operate a 60 MW solar PV facility in South Africa’s Free State.
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