Construction of the 100 MW Kathu Solar Park concentrated solar power (CSP) project, in the Northern Cape, is expected to begin soon, following the signing of a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) by the ENGIE-led consortium and South Africa’s State-owned electricity utility Eskom.
The parabolic-trough technology plant will be equipped with a molten-salt storage system that allows 4.5 hours of thermal energy storage and is expected to be operational in the second half of 2018.
A consortium comprising ENGIE, which has a 48.5% interest, as well as the SIOC Community Development Trust, Investec Bank, Lereko Metier and the Public Investment Corporation is developing the project.
Debt funding, meanwhile, will be provided by Rand Merchant Bank, Nedbank Capital, ABSA Capital, Investec and the Development Bank of Southern Africa.
ENGIE Africa Business Unit CEO Bruno Bensasson described the PPA as a milestone, with the Kathu Solar Park to be the group’s first CSP project.
The project emerged as a preferred bidder following the third bid window of the South African government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP).
To date, 6 377 MW of renewables projects, mostly wind and solar photovoltaic (PV), have been procured through the REIPPPP, with 44 projects, representing a capacity of 2 021 MW, having been connected to the national grid by the end of 2015. The programme has also reportedly stimulated R194-billion in private investment.
Bids for a further 1 800 MW of renewables projects are currently under evaluation, with 450 MW allocated for additional CSP capacity.
Besides the Kathu Solar Park, the other CSP projects either producing or in development include the 50 MW Bokpoort CSP project, the 50 MW Khi Solar One power-tower project, the 100 MW KaXu Solar One and Xina projects, the 100 MW Ilanga 1 development and the 100 MW Redstone Solar Thermal Power proejct. In addition, Eskom is pursuing a CSP project of its own.
ENGIE, previously known as GDF SUEZ, also saw the Kathu project as an addition to its African portfolio, which currently comprises two operational wind farms (the 94 MW West Coast 1 wind farm in South Africa and the 301 MW Tarfaya wind farm in Morocco), the two Safi thermal power generation units being built in Morocco, as well as the 670 MW Avon plant and 335 MW Dedisa peaking plants in South Africa.
Through Solairedirect, the company is also involved in two solar PV parks, with a combined capacity of 21 MW, in South Africa’s Western Cape.