South Africa’s Kathu solar park begins commercial operations

Kathu solar park in South Africa has begun commercial operations as disclosed by electric utility company, ENGIE. The 100-megawatts (MW) plant is a Greenfield Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) project equipped with a storage system that allows for storing of energy for up to 4-5 hours. This  will provide reliable electricity in the absence of solar radiation and during peak demand.

The solar plant project was awarded under the country’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Program (REIPPP), a competitive tender process aimed at facilitating private sector investment in renewable energy generation.

CEO of ENGIE, Isabelle Kocher, noted that the completion of Kathu shows the company’s continued commitment to an economic and environmentally friendly development in South Africa.

“Kathu with its molten salt storage design offers a clean solution to overcome the intermittency of renewable energies. We are proud to contribute to the country’s renewable energy goals, and look forward to continuing the projects initiated with local communities making Kathu a genuine driver of regional economic development,” Kocher said.

The Kathu Solar Park shareholders, which are led by ENGIE (48.5 percent), include a group of South African, Dutch and German investors. It is the first CSP development for ENGIE and the site covers approximately 4.5 kilometer square, with 384,000 mirrors.

According to the Ministry of Energy, South Africa’s total domestic electricity generation capacity is 51,309 MW from all sources. The country generates 91 percent of its electricity from coal, while just 4,533 MW or 8.8 percent is generated from renewable energy sources. As a result, it is one of the 15 largest emitters of Carbon dioxide (CO2) worldwide.

More so, increasing economic growth, population and a lack of investment in power plants are causing shortages in the electricity supply. According to USAID’s Power Africa fact sheet on South Africa, 2.2 million households remain without power. As a consequence, significant investment in renewable and energy efficiency is needed.

The country is in the most fortunate position to have excellent solar and wind resources available. The southern African region, and in fact the whole of Africa, has sunshine all year round. Most areas in South Africa average more than 2,500 hours of sunshine per year (one of the highest local resource in the world). This means the use of solar energy is the most readily accessible resource in the country.

With significant potential to achieve energy efficiency, the South African government has taken several measures to introduce renewable energies on a large scale to meet the demand of energy. These measures were also geared towards increasing the share of renewable energy in its energy mix, and enhancing the promotion of energy efficiency in all sectors, while reducing carbon emissions.

The country’s REIPPP programme for utility-scale transactions signed 27 power purchase agreements in June 2018. There are also plans to add 19,400 MW of new renewable generation by 2030, according to the draft updated Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) released in August 2018. Since initiated, South Africa’s renewable energy sector has experienced an explosive growth in the past few years with investments of more than $ 10 billion. However, there is still a long way to go towards meeting the country’s renewable energy targets.

The benefits of the Kathu Solar Park abound, including access to inexpensive electric power in remote areas not connected to the national electricity supply network. It is built with the capacity to provide clean and reliable energy to 179,000 homes in the local community of the John Taolo Gaetsewe District Municipality, the Northern Cape and South Africa as a whole. It is estimated that the solar plant will save six million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) over 20 years.

Furthermore, it will foster further local economic development through several projects like the trust for the benefit of the communities situated in the Northern Cape and outsourcing of services from local contractors.

ENGIE is a French multinational electric utility company, which operates in the fields of electricity generation and distribution, natural gas, nuclear and renewable energy. ENGIE has 150,000 employees in 70 countries.

For over 50 years, the company has been active in many African countries through its energy engineering business. Recently it has operated as an independent power producer in South Africa and Morocco with a total capacity of 3,000 MW either in operation or under construction.

In South Africa, Engie has interests in a wind farm (Aurora, 94 MW), two solar PV farms (21 MW) and two advanced thermal power plants (Avon, 670 MW and Dedisa, 335 MW). Engie also owns Thermaire Investments (Pty) Ltd. and Ampair (Pty) Ltd., leaders in HVAC installation and maintenance in the South African market.

 

Source: Ventures Africa

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