Spanish multinational Abengoa S.A. (MCE: ABG.B) recently launched its third solar thermal plant in South Africa. The power plant, Xina Solar One, is reportedly located near Pofadder, Northern Cape and has a total installed capacity of 100 MW. Many expect the plant to impact the local community and demonstrate the viability of renewable energy as a sustainable source of electricity.
Xina Solar One, the parabolic thermal installation follows the launch of KaXu and Khi and is one of the seven solar power projects planned under the Department of Energy’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP).
Dominic Goncalves, Vice-president of business development at Abengoa South Africa stated that Xina, and projects like it under the programme, have helped to solve South Africa’s energy crisis. He added that the new projects, using renewable energy would need to be developed and constructed in the future. He also added that the project delivered 1,800 jobs during the construction phase and is expected to create 80 permanent jobs during the operational phase over the next 20 years.
The thermal plant, known as a concentrated solar plant (CSP) reportedly uses parabolic mirrors to reflect the sun’s rays to a central tower hub which contains a salt. The salt reportedly melts under extreme heat, and the steam from the water is used to turn a turbine that creates electricity. Meanwhile, the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), states that the levelised cost of electricity from CSPs is higher than PV or wind systems. The agency also pointed out that the costs would be significantly less in high sunlight areas.
The CSP technology is relatively a new technology in clean energy production. And, in the context of developing CSPs where the key challenge is the state of the transmission network, Dr Matti Lubkoll, who teaches solar thermal energy at Stellenbosch University highlighted the contrast of the location of the projects and the availability of transmission lines. He also stated that with the deployment of CSP technologies maturity was likely to follow.