Nov 20, 2009
SA thin-film solar plant may be operating within ‘two-and-a-half years'Back
© Reuse this
The head of the JSE-listed group's new energy unit, Henri Loubser, confirmed that the facility would be established in Paarl, in the Western Cape, and would have a capacity to produce 40 MW of the copper-indium-gallium-diselenide (CIGS) modules yearly.
The CIGS solution is considered to be a second-generation thin-film photovoltaic (PV) technology, with material cost advantages over PV solutions based on crystalline silicon. PV technology is able to convert solar energy directly into electricity and has been included into South Africa's latest renewable energy feed-in tariff structure.
South Africa's State-owned Central Energy Fund, Sasol, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and the National Empowerment Fund are pursuing the South African project jointly as a public-private partnership (PPP). The European Investment Bank has also lent €40-million to PPP to support the construction of the local PV production facility. Sasol has a 40% interest in the start-up PV enterprise.
"We are confident that the development phase of the project will kick off in December," Loubser said, adding that Sasol was sending a team to Germany during November to facilitate the final agreements for the programme.
The development phase is expected to continue for between 12 months and 18 months. Thereafter, the facility will be relocated from Germany to South Africa in a project that could take another 12 months to complete.
News of the advances in the South African project comes as MiaSolé, a US manufacturer of CIGS thin-film PV modules, has announced that it has started shipping its CIGS thin-film modules from its California production facility.
In a press statement issued in mid-November, CEO Dr Joseph Laia reported that it had shipped modules to 30 customer sites in Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Portugal and various locations in the US. "We now have commercial projects in the ground, under development and on the drawing board," Laia said.
Sasol's Loubser acknowledged the growing competitive pressures surrounding PV, but said that the South African investors were confident that the development phase would prove that the technology was indeed cost and efficiency competitive.
The other second-generation thin-film solutions emerging were amorphous-silicon panels and cadmium-telluride units. Further, there was much work is going into so-called third-generation solutions, which could reduce costs further and improve efficiencies up to 40%. The efficiency of the current systems is between 8% and 20%.
The South African CIGS solution has been advanced by Vivian Alberts, a professor in the department of physics at UJ, and a patent was filed in 2003.
Land had been procured in the Western Cape for the new PV facility, while a German company was producing and testing the production machinery at a facility in Bradenburg.
A R12-million pilot production facility was commissioned in March 2006 but work was now required to prove commercial-scale production.
"The moment that the technology step has been proven . . . then the equipment, which was erected in Germany, will be moved to Paarl, and expanded in capacity," Loubser explained.
Meanwhile, Sasol new energy unit was also working on a range of other low-carbon technologies and solutions, in line with targets for reducing the carbon insensitivity of its current and future coal-to-liquids (CTL) fleet.
Group safety health and environment centre manager Fred Goede reaffirmed that the company was aiming to lower the carbon intensity (the percentage of carbon dioxide for a ton of final product) of its existing CTL plants in South Africa, as well as their absolute emissions.
A reduction target of 15% by 2020 had been set for its existing plants, as benchmarked against 2005 levels, while future CTL facilities would need to be 30% less carbon intense against the same benchmark. The group, which emitted 71,3-million tons of greenhouse gases in 2009, also had an aspiration of lowering its absolute emissions by 20% for new CTL plants commissioned before 2020 and 30% for plants commissioned before 2030.
Loubser said that the plan included the deployment of energy-efficiency solutions, renewable energy, hydro and nuclear energy, as well as carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies.
A series of projects were already under way, with Sasol targeting to improve the energy efficiency of its utilities by 15% a unit of production by 2015, based on a baseline set in 2000.
Solar-energy was another big focus area, with Loubser indicating that, besides the PV investment in Paarl, the group was participating in solar water heating and concentrating solar power (CSP) projects.
It was currently funding a University of Stellenbosch project to research various CSP technologies, which would inform its decision as to which solution it could support. Sasol expected to make a final technology choice by June, 2010.
It was also possible that the company could participate in some of the many hydroelectric schemes currently under consideration in the region, while it was also mulling over its nuclear-energy options.
Loubser said that it envisaged a possible process-heat/electricity role for the pebble-bed modular reactor (PBMR), which is being researched by a South African State-owned company. However, he warned that the protracted timeframes surrounding the development of the PBMR might make it difficult for the solution to be integrated into some of its near-term project plans.
Sasol also had ambitious CCS plans, and it "will not commit to invest in future CTL, or other coal-based plants, without clear mitigation solutions".
For instance, CCS had been integrated into the prefeasibility analysis for a possible new CTL plant being studied for China.
Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
Other Electricity News
Article contains comments
Updated 1 hour 44 minutes ago Despite a record year, Tongaat Hulett’s starch and cellulose division was impacted by load-shedding during the year ended March 31, CEO Peter Staude said in a telephone interview on Monday. “The starch and glucose operation, which is the only wet-miller in...
Updated 2 hours 16 minutes ago The Competition Commission has referred a case of alleged collusion against JSE-listed construction materials company Dawn, along with its subsidiaries DPI Plastics, Ubuntu Plastics and Sangio Pipes, to the Competition Tribunal for prosecution. The commission alleged...
Updated 3 hours ago JSE-listed Rhodes Food Group grew its turnover 12.4% to R1.3-billion for the six months ended March 29, while normalised operating profit was up 17.3% to R126-million, the company reported at its interim results presentation on Monday. The company’s normalised...
Recent Research Reports
Steel 2015: A review of South Africa's steel sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Steel 2015 report provides an overview of the key developments in the global steel industry and particularly of South Africa’s steel sector over the past year, including details of production and consumption, as well as the country's primary carbon...
Projects in Progress 2015 - First Edition (PDF Report)
In fact, this edition of Creamer Media’s Projects in Progress 2015 supplement tracks developments taking place under the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme, which has had four bidding rounds. It appears to remain a shining light on the...
Electricity 2015: A review of South Africa's electricity sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Electricity 2015 report provides an overview of State-owned power utility Eskom and independent power producers, as well as electricity planning, transmission, distribution and the theft thereof, besides other issues.
Construction 2015: A review of South Africa’s construction sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Construction 2015 Report examines South Africa’s construction industry over the past 12 months. The report provides insight into the business environment; the key participants in the sector; local construction demand; geographic diversification;...
Liquid Fuels 2014 - A review of South Africa's Liquid Fuels sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Liquid Fuels 2014 Report examines these issues, focusing on the business environment, oil and gas exploration, the country’s feedstock supplies, the development of South Africa’s biofuels industry, fuel pricing, competition in the sector, the...
Water 2014: A review of South Africa's water sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Water 2014 report considers the aforementioned issues, not only in the South African context, but also in the African and global context, and examines the issues of water and sanitation, water quality and the demand for water, among others.
This Week's Magazine
While economic forecasts for the African continent are most favourable, African airlines may not be able to benefit from the expected growth in the region’s gross domestic product (GDP), International Air Transport Association VP: Africa Raphael Kuuchi has warned....
The Automotive Production and Development Programme (APDP) will need to change substantially post 2020, says Metair Investments South African operations COO Ken Lello. “We must not make tweaks. We have to change. What we are doing is not sustainable.”
Banking group Absa’s forecast is for the rand to end the year at around R13 against the dollar, weakening further to R13.50 by 2016, says Absa sectoral analyst Jacques du Toit. He warns that possible interest rate hikes in the US may see capital being pulled from...
The Dispute Resolution Centre at the Bargaining Council for the Civil Engineering Industry (BCCEI) is now open to handle party-to-party disputes. The BCCEI represents the interests of all level four to nine Construction Industry Development Board companies.
Communications technology firm Ericsson sub-Saharan Africa head Fredrik Jejdling says the company’s commitment to sustainability and corporate responsibility has been integrated into all facets of its operations, which has provided it with sustainable revenue...