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Surge in solar energy news from South Africa – Top 5 solar power project announcements this month (so far)

The solar power market in South Africa has ramped up a gear, with a stream of project news emanating from the country in recent days. Covering project financial close, contract awards and construction starts, the news covers both solar PV and concentrated solar power (CSP).

Why this news flurry?

Well, this month saw the project bidders of the 28 renewable energy projects selected to proceed by the South Africa Department of Energy (DOE) under the first round of its Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPP) sign power purchase and project agreements with the state utility Eskom.

The agreements “indicate the realisation of our long held dream for the deployment of large scale renewable energy,” stated South Africa’s energy minister, Dipuo Peters. In total, the projects have a combined capacity of 1400MW and represent an investment of R47bn. Combined Solar PV and CSP account for 781.53MW (wind power accounts for the remaining 633.99MW).

“This day will go down in history as the day that our government delivered on its commitment to ensure that this nation grows its renewable energy component of our energy mix,” Peters said. With the more established markets facing some tough times, it has also provided some much needed good news in the solar arena too.

So here are my Top 5 South Africa solar energy news announcements for November so far… 

  1. As we already reported this week on, SolarReserve has completed its $586mn financing for two South African solar PV power projects – the 75MW solar PV projects will spur economic development, create jobs and contribute to South Africa's renewable energy goals, the joint venture said. Find out more here.

  2. Abengoa begins construction on two CSP plants awarded by the South Africa Department of EnergySpanish firm Abengoa has begun construction on the 50MW solar power tower Khi Solar One and the 100MW parabolic trough plant KaXu Solar One in South Africa. The CSP plants are located in the Northern Cape Province near Upington and Pofadder. Abengoa, which will build, operate and maintain the plants, owns 51% of the projects, while the state-owned Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) holds 29%, and the Black Economic Empowerment programme maintains the remaining 20%. Both Khi Solar One and KaXu Solar One use Abengoa’s advanced dry cooling technology, which reduces water consumption compared to other CSP plants by approximately two thirds, according to the company. The plants also have storage capacity of about two hours for Khi and three hours for KaXu, which can be used during transient periods and after sunset. “CSP’s ability to be dispatchable will be a great advantage for South Africa as it will permit the country to bring more intermittent technologies, such as photovoltaics and wind into their renewable energy mix,” says Abengoa, which currently has 743MW of solar capacity installed globally and a further 910MW under construction. Khi Solar One will be the firm’s third commercial solar power tower and its first outside of Spain.

  3. Mainstream Renewable Power is to start constructing 100MW of solar projects and 138MW of wind power in South Africa the three projects have all now reached financial close and represent a combined investment of over €500mn. The company signed the key financing, power-purchase and implementation agreements with the South African government earlier this week. Construction on all three projects is expected to start shortly and all are due to be fully operational by mid 2014, Mainstream Renewable Power said. The two solar projects – the De Aar solar PV farm located in the Municipality of Emthanjeni in the Northern Cape and the Droogfontein solar PV farm located near the town of Kimberley, also in the Northern Cape - will each be 50MW in capacity. Its 138MW Jeffreys Bay wind farm, meantime, is located in the Eastern Cape. Mainstream is developing the projects with its consortium partners under the South African Government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPP). Members of the Mainstream consortium include emerging markets power company Globeleq as the strategic equity partner.

  4. Tractebel wins EPC contract for 100MW concentrated solar power project in South Africa - Eskom has selected a consortium led by Tractebel Engineering to provide engineering and project management for one of the world’s largest CSP plants with tower technology. The 100MWe project is being developed in Upington, South Africa. The plant will have a circular solar field of heliostats focussing the solar radiation in two-axis tracking towards a molten salt central receiver located in a high tower. From this receptor, the molten salts will be driven to an exchanger to produce superheated steam for generating power in a conventional steam turbine. Some of the heat from the molten salts will be used to continue production beyond daylight hours, achieving a capacity factor of at least 60%. The project will be financed by the World Bank Clean Technology Fund, African Development Bank, the French Development Agency, the German public-sector financial institution KfW and the European Investment Bank. Tractebel’s consortium partners are Spanish firm Astrom Technical Advisors and South-African PD Naidoo & Associates.

  5. Kentz awarded US$45mn EPC contract for 75MW solar power project in South AfricaScatec Solar has awarded the US$45mn Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract for the €200mn 75MW Kalkbult Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Project in the Northern Cape area of South Africa to Kentz Pty (Ltd), an operating unit of Kentz Corporation. The project is scheduled for completion in January 2014. "We continue to develop our EPC capabilities in the African region and this prestigious project for Scatec Solar demonstrates our ability to secure a wide range of EPC contracts,” said Christian Brown, Chief Executive of Kentz Group.

Read more solar power news here and check out more Renewable Energy Focus blogs, including guest posts, here. 

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