Should solar photovoltaic (PV) become South Africa’s cheapest form of electricity, intermittency could limit the technology’s penetration of the energy market, Thupela Energy CEO Philip Calcott said.
Smart grid technologies, storage, as well as geographical and source diversity could assist in evening out changes in supply, he stated at the second yearly Solar South Africa conference, held in Johannesburg this week.
However, Calcott pointed out that for solar to extensively penetrate the market, backup power would be required.
“The backup sources will have to have a low capital cost, be flexible and have a relatively low fuel cost, if it is fuel driven,” he said and suggested that shale gas could be a feasible backup source to address long-term intermittency problems.
“Shale gas turbines are known for their low capital cost and South Africa has the world’s fifth largest shale gas resource.”
Calcott added that shale gas could deliver affordable fuel costs if turbines were co-located with the extraction site.
Speculating on South Africa’s future energy mix, he said nuclear would be the best option for baseload, as it offered benefits that included supply security.
He indicated that the environmental, heath and safety challenges associated with nuclear power had been blown out of proportion, and that it was a feasible solution to South Africa’s electricity deficit.
“We also hope that a substantial slice of the country’s future power generation will be from renewables, particularly solar,” Calcott said.
Further, he stated that pumped storage and hydro electricity could be used for daily load management.
Calcott was optimistic that by addressing the challenge of storage and applying hybrid solutions such as shale gas, South Africa could be propelled to being a world leader in clean, competitively priced electricity generation.