Thermal power plant a first for Africa

Thermal power plant a first for Africa

Work on a multi-million-rand concentrated solar plant, the first of its kind in Africa and which will see the revolutionary use of thermal power, is expected to start in the Northern Cape within the next two months.
The Redstone Solar Thermal Power Plant, which will be able to generate 100MW of energy – enough to power 200 000 houses – is being developed by the US-based company Solar Reserve.
Concentrated solar thermal power (CSP) is able to store solar power generated during day.

The company already has two operational photovoltaic solar power plants in the Northern Cape, namely Jasper, which generates 96MW of energy, and Lesedi, which generates 75MW.
Addressing the media during an energy tour in the Northern Cape recently, vice-president of Solar Reserve Terence Govender said construction on the $1 billion (R14.9bn) Redstone project was expected to start in September.
“Solar Reserve’s three solar projects have seen the investment of billions of dollars of foreign capital into the Northern Cape and include investors like IEC, PIC Standard Bank, Nedbank and Old Mutual,” Govender said.
He added that the venture was not a government-funded project but was being funded by international investors from the private sector.
“The projects are part of a programme to generate electricity from sunlight for disadvantaged communities in South Africa as well as to use a form of energy which is free, namely the sun.
“Solar Reserve entered South Africa in 2011 and, through its developments in the Northern Cape, the company was able to invest in local communities and businesses.”
The first two projects developed in the province by Solar Reserve – Lesedi and Jasper – are photovoltaic projects.
“As a result of projects like these, South Africa no longer experiences load shedding because we are able to transmit electricity to other parts of the country.”
Lesedi, which generates sufficient electricity to power 65 000 homes and Jasper, which is able to power 80 000 houses, are, however, only effective when there is direct sunlight.
Solar Reserve’s latest project, Redstone Thermal Power Plant, is the first of its kind in Africa and makes use of molten salt energy storage technology in a tower configuration so that it is able to support South Africa’s demand for energy when it is needed most – both day and night.
“The 100MW project with 12 hours of full-load energy storage will be able to reliably deliver a stable electricity supply to more than 200 000 South African homes during peak demand periods, even after the sun has set.
“Fuelled completely by the sun, with no back-up fuel required, the project also features dry cooling of the power generation cycle as an important element to minimize water usage.
“Due to the fully integrated thermal energy storage, the plant will provide dispatchable power on demand, just like conventional coal, oil, nuclear or natural gas-fired power plants, but without the harmful emissions or hazardous materials and without any fuel costs,” Govender explained.
Redstone will be built in Postmasburg, adjacent to the existing Lesedi and Jasper plants. Together, the three comprise the world’s first combined CSP and PV solar park, with a total of 271MW of generating capacity.
Redstone will provide more than 800 direct jobs during the construction phase, as well as significant additional jobs related to equipment supply, manufacturing, engineering, transportation and other services.
Over 40 percent of the total project South African suppliers would provide value, a portion of which would support black economic empowerment activities.
“There has definitely been an evolution in solar projects. South Africa has come a long way since 2011, because Africa sees the value of renewable energy which benefits all the citizens of the continent,” Govender added.
A local resident has also been awarded the contract to clean the solar panels.
Businesswoman Juliet Basie was assisted in purchasing the equipment for her company in order to maintain the panels so that she is able to expand her business.
“We started with the project in 2014 and since then we have increased our staff from six people to 50 permanent posts,” Basie said.
The Jasper Solar Power Projects also funds a local school, Refentse Primary School, and has sponsored a paved playground, refurbished the bathrooms and built a multi-purpose court for tennis, netball and basketball, as well as provided desks and chairs for the pupils.
Another resident who has benefited is Ben Diraditsile, who was provided with a solar panel for his shack.
“The panel has helped me a lot but the only thing I have a problem with is that I cannot use a stove, kettle or microwave.
“I can only charge my phone and listen to music using my radio. I have to use a gas stove in order to cook and boil water,” Diraditsile said.

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