Abengoa Solar, a world renowned designer of solar power systems, has just announced two Concentrating Solar Power [CSP] plants to be built in Africa. These will be the first full-scale solar projects on the African continent, as well as the largest in the world to date.
Financed in part by a grant by South Africa, which plans to have nearly 18 GW of renewable energy online by 2030, the two new plants will have a capacity of 50 MW and 100 MW.
Unlike photovoltaic power generation, which generates electricity directly, CSP plants use heliostats, giant parabolic mirrors, to concentrate the sun’s rays on a single point in a tower high above.
In practice, thousands of mirrors are electronically controlled to track the sun and focus it on the tower. The tower contains water or other fluid, which flashes into vapor, which then drives turbines, and in turn, electrical generators.
Khi Solar One, in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa near Uppington, started construction this week. Khi Solar One has a design capacity of 50 MW and a two-hour thermal storage capacity, which will help to regulate variations in solar output, as well as allow continued power generation partway into the evening.
KaXu Solar One, about 150 miles west of Khi Solar One, is rated at 100 MW, and also got its construction officially under way this week and features a three-hour thermal storage capacity.
These concentrating solar power plants projects, and others, are paving the way for the African continent to realize a greener future and independence from fossil fuels. “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,” Abengoa said.