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'Kathu Solar Park is a 100 MW greenfield Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) project with parabolic trough technology'

Kathu Solar Park (KSP) is a 100MW Greenfield Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) project with parabolic trough and molten salt storage technology. The project is located in the town of Kathu in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa, 600 km South-West of the national capital Pretoria.

The shareholders consist of Engie, the Government Employees Pension Fund (PIC), SIOC Community Development Trust, Development Bank of Southern Africa Limited, Investec Bank Limited, Lereko Metier and the Kathu Trust. The consortium was awarded the status of preferred bidder on 15 December 2014, following round 3.5 of the South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) - a program led by the South African Department of Energy (DOE).

The Kathu project achieved financial close on 15 May 2016 prompting the start of construction on the 26th May. The plant is under construction by the consortium formed by Acciona and Sener, acting as Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) provider. This is Acciona’s and Sener’s second solar project in South Africa, the first being the 50 MW Bokpoort CSP plant in Upington. The plant will use parabolic troughs, designed and patented by Sener, the SENERtrough®-2 system.

The project received its Environmental Authorisation on 03 November 2011. The Environmental and Social Impact Report (ESIR) assessed both biophysical and socio-economic environments and identified appropriate management and mitigation measures.  The biophysical impact assessment revealed that there are no environmental fatal flaws and no significant negative impacts associated with the proposed project should mitigation and management measures be implemented.  In addition, the overall socio-economic impacts associated with the project are positive and include the creation of job opportunities and contributions to the local, regional and national economies.

Technology details

The parabolic trough technology operates by tracking the sun with the parabolic reflectors and focusing the sun’s rays into an absorber pipe. The absorber pipe, which is seated above the mirror along the focal line, contains a heat absorbent medium that absorbs the energy. The heat absorbent material carries energy to water in a boiler heat exchanger and the heat is used to produce steam which drives a turbine. The Kathu project also has a molten storage system which allows for 4.5 hours of thermal energy storage which helps reduce the effects of irregular sunlight and allows the opportunity to produce electricity even after the sun goes down. A parabolic trough plant consists of a significant number of solar collector assemblies which are made up of the following four constituent parts: (i) parabolic reflector (i.e. a curved mirror); (ii) a receiver tube; (iii) a support structure; and (iv) a tracking system.

Schedule

The construction will take place for the duration of 28 months from 26 May 2016 until September 2018. The operation will then begin for a period of 30 years.

Value added

It is estimated to save six million tons of CO2 over 20 years and will further promote the local economy for the duration of the project through various ventures such as a local community trust for the benefit of communities in the John Taolo Gaetsewe District Municipality situated in the Northern Cape, and sourcing of other services from local entrepreneurs. 500 jobs will be created during the construction phase (1 200 in peak time). Once complete, the Kathu project will reliably be able to supply over 179 000 South African homes with stable electricity during their peak demand periods.