Feasibility work is moving ahead on the development of two 1 000 MW solar parks in Prieska and Upington, in the Northern Cape, as part of a larger plan to create a 5 000 MW solar-park corridor in the sun-drenched province.
The solar-park corridor concept first emerged following an investigation by the Clinton Climate Initiative, which resulted in the creation of an indicative master plan.
A prefeasibility study for the concept was then approved by Cabinet in 2010, after which the Central Energy Fund (CEF) was given responsibility to undertake feasibility studies.
These studies have since been broken into phases, with the first phases focusing on a 1 000 MW solar park in Prieska, on land owned by Siyathemba municipality. However, the CEF has now also invited bids for a feasibility study for a 1 000 MW park in Upington, on land owned by the //Khara Hais municipality.
The scope involves three technical studies, including an environmental-impact assessment (EIA), geotechnical engineering work and a feasibility study.
The studies are being jointly funded by the Department of Energy and the CEF and are scheduled for completion in the first quarter of 2014. The EIA for the sites will be completed by the end of the third quarter next year.
The Upington site lies adjacent to the property earmarked for Eskom’s proposed 100 MW concentrating solar power (CSP) demonstration project.
Both sites are said to be in close proximity to existing transmission infrastructure, although CEF says new 400 kVA substations and grid lines will have to be built to facilitate the evacuation of electricity.
The studies will investigate the best mix of technologies, including CSP, photovoltaic (PV), and concentrated PV, and inform the implementation timeline.
The CEF indicates that any capacity procured for deployment in the two solar parks will be secured through competitive bidding processes, whereby independent power producers bid for allocations.
It is not certain how these processes will relate to the DoE’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP), through which 47 renewable-energy projects have been selected following two bid windows.
Twenty-one of the renewables projects will be developed in the Northern Cape, with the DoE having selected the 27 PV projects and three CSP projects in the first two rounds.
Through the REIPPPP, the DoE aims to procure an initial 3 625 MW of large-scale renewables capacity and has, to date, allocated 2 460 MW across wind, solar and minihydro projects. The third bid-window will close on August 19, 2013, and the next set of preferred projects should be unveiled on October 29.