Sun rises on Northern Cape solar project

2015-01-25 15:00

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Developers say venture will help power 200?000 households, and provide thousands of ­direct and indirect jobs

An artist’s aerial impression of what the Redstone project in Postmasburg will look like when it’s completed. On the left in the background and the foreground are the already completed Lesedi and Jasper projects

Developers hope the construction of a new concentrated solar power plant in Postmasburg will light up the Northern Cape’s economy.

The 100 megawatt plant will generate enough power to supply more than 200?000 homes, say developers SolarReserve and Acwa Power.

In a real boon for the province, the developers say more than 4?000 direct and indirect jobs could be created in the construction phase, and between 60 and 70 people will be appointed to operate the plant.

Concentrated solar plants use a field of mirrors to focus the heat of the sun on to a single point. The heat is then used to generate steam, and this is used to switch on a generator and make electricity.

The plant will be able to store power for 12 hours of supply, which means it can keep the lights in homes running day and night on request, even after the sun has set.

The project, called Redstone, was one of the successful bidders in the third round of the department of energy’s green power purchasing programme.

Unfortunately, Redstone’s lights won’t be switched on immediately because Eskom has delayed the linking of new renewable energy projects to its network. Redstone is also waiting for final financial approvals.

The developers said they were optimistic that they would be able to start generating power by early 2018.

SolarReserve, a US group, has already built a similar project in the US that uses molten salt as a storage battery.

Kevin Smith, CEO of SolarReserve, says the plant’s power storage capacity means it can supply on demand – just like a conventional coal-fired or nuclear power station, but without pollution or hazardous waste.

SolarReserve also developed the photovoltaic solar projects Lesedi and Jasper, which are online and can produce 75MW and 96MW, respectively.

The Redstone project will be built next to these plants.

Acwa Power developed the Bokpoort concentrated solar power plant near Groblershoop, also in the Northern Cape. It generates 50MW.

Other concentrated solar power plants being developed are Eskom’s own project of 100MW in Upington; Spanish group Abengoa’s three projects of 250MW; the Karoshoek project of 100MW, which Investec, the Industrial Development Corporation and the state’s Public Investment Corporation (PIC) have interests in; and the Kathu Solar Park of 100MW, which Investec, the PIC and French group GDF Suez are involved in.

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