South Africa names builders of Kathu solar park

Acciona's termosolar facility.

Acciona’s termosolar facility.

11 April 2015, Johannesburg – Kathu solar thermal plant, the latest solar plant to be constructed in sunny Northern Cape, will be built by engineering and construction group Sener and the infrastructure, renewable energy and services corporation Acciona.

Together the two international companies form the consortium chosen to develop the Kathu turnkey project. The complex is led by GDF Suez, with South African partners comprising Sishen Iron Ore Company Community Development Trust, Investec Bank, Lereko Metier and Public Investment Corporation.

It has been selected by the South African Department of Energy to form part of the country’s renewable energy development programme (REIPPP), with a forecast investment of more than €500-million (R6.4-billion).

Kathu Solar Park, along with Redstone Solar Thermal Power, which will both build 100MW capacity, were the preferred bidders in the third round of the government’s REIPPPP, the department said.

Concentrated solar thermal power is able to store solar power generated during daylight hours.

Storage capacity
Kathu is a 100MW plant with parabolic troughs – specifically, the SenerTrough-2 system, designed and patented by Sener, and a thermal energy storage capacity of 4.5 hours, thanks to the use of molten salts. Located in the town of Kathu, near Upington, in Northern Cape Province, the plant will begin operations in 2018 and will be able to supply electricity to 80 000 homes.

Because of the nature of the contract, Sener and Acciona will carry out the engineering, construction and commissioning of the entire facility. The building consortium will also use local suppliers, as the project is fully committed to contributing to the local community.

It is the companies’ second solar thermal project in South Africa, the first being the Bokpoort plant in Upington, in which they also form part of the building consortium. It will be operational later this year. It is also a turnkey project that uses SenerTrough technology and a molten salt storage system.

Kathu is near KaXu Solar One, the first solar thermal electricity plant in South Africa, which was formally opened by Ebrahim Patel, the economic development minister, on 2 March. KaXu, which means “open skies” in the loca Nama language, is outside Pofadder.

Total investment in KaXu, the largest parabolic trough project in the southern hemisphere, was $891-million (R10.7-billion).

International experience
The international partners bring with them a wealth of experience. Sener has been involved in 29 solar plants, most of them turnkey projects, in Spain, the USA, South Africa, and Morocco. Together these represent an installed capacity of more than 2 000MW and carbon dioxide savings of more than one million tons annually.

Some of its projects are technological milestones, such as Gemasolar and Valle 1 and Valle 2, in Spain, and the Noor complex in Morocco, where Sener also forms parts of the building consortium for Noor 1 and for the second phase (Noor 2 and Noor 3).

Acciona is one of the world’s biggest renewable energy operators, and owns an installed capacity of 8 500MW. It is a turnkey provider of electricity generating facilities using wind, solar and photovoltaic technology. In solar thermal energy, it operates 315MW in the USA and Spain, and has built more than 12 plants. It is currently working on projects such as Noor 1 in Morocco and Bokpoort in South Africa.

It has had a presence in South Africa since September 2012 through its energy and infrastructures divisions, working on three renewable energy projects:

Sishen Solar Photovoltaic Plant: Acciona owns and operates the plant, which has the largest output of any plant of its type in Africa (214 gigawatt hours per year). The project is a joint venture with Aveng, Soul City and Dibeng Community Trust. It became operational in December 2014.

Gouda Wind Farm: Acciona Energy, in partnership with Aveng, Soul City and Local Community Trust, is building the Gouda wind farm (138MW), its first wind farm in South Africa.

Bokpoort Thermosolar Power Plant: Awarded to Acciona and its partners in June 2012, construction is expected to finish this year. The 50MW facility will use parabolic troughs and will have a molten salt energy storage system.

Sener is a private engineering and technology group founded in Bilbao, Spain, in 1956. It was the first Spanish engineering company. Acciona is one of Spain’s largest corporations, operating in the fields of infrastructure, energy, water, and services in more than 30 countries.

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