50 MW SA solar project part of Saudi group’s diversification drive

5th June 2012 By: Terence Creamer - Creamer Media Editor

Saudi Arabian power and water group ACWA Power International has confirmed that the 50 MW Bokpoort concentrated solar power (CSP) project, which is proposed for the Northern Cape, will be its first investment in Africa.

The development, which has an estimated project cost of R4.5-billion, was selected along with 18 other preferred bids during the second-window evaluation under government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPP), which took place between March 5 and May 21.

ACWA Power has a portfolio comprising 12 000 MW of power generation capacity, as well as desalination plants able to process 2.3-million cubic metres a day. Its portfolio currently spans Saudi Arabia, Oman and Jordan, while it has a project under development in Turkey.

ACWA CE Paddy Padmanathan describes the Bokpoort project as a milestone for the group’s geographical and technological diversification. He says the project will also be key to the group’s aspiration of expanding its total capacity to 30 000 MW by the end of 2014 and having renewables making up five per cent of it power portfolio.

The Bokpoort consortium also comprises black economic–empowerment (BEE) firm Invest in Africa Energy (IAE), which has a 30% shareholding, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), Lereko Solafrica Investment, Lereko Metier Solafrica Fund 1, Lereko Metier Sustainable Capital Fund, Kurisani Solafrica Investments and Solafrica Community Investment Company. The community shareholding will reportedly represent 10% of the project.

In addition, Investec, the Development Bank of Southern Africa and the IDC will provide the debt funding requirements of the project.

ACWA’s subsidiary NOMAC will operate the plant, which will be constructed by an engineering, procurement and construction consortium comprising TSK Electrónica y Electricidad, Acciona Infraestructuras, Acciona Ingeniería, Sener Ingeniería y Sistemas, all of Spain, as well as Crowie Concessions, of South Africa.

The Department of Energy expects the facility to incorporate 36,5% local content, create 662 construction jobs and 50 operational posts. It also expects the plant to deliver power at a cost of R2.51/kWh.

IDC SUPPORT

The greenfield development is one of several REIPPP projects being supported by the State-owned IDC, and it was the only CSP project to advance to the preferred-bidder stage during the second bid window.

During window one, two projects (the 100 MW KaXu Solar One and the 50 MW Khi Solar One, which are being developed by Abengoa and the IDC) advanced. The three projects have also absorbed the full 200 MW allocated to CSP under REIPPP.

Over the first two rounds the IDC supported a total of 36 bidders, of which 19 were named as preferred bidders – the window-one projects are due to reach financial closure by June 19, while those announced on May 21 have until December to reach closure.

The South African development finance institution has set aside R25-billion for various green projects over the coming five years, including the REIPPP projects that are meant to add 3 725 MW of renewable energy capacity to the South African grid by 2016.

The targeted financial close date for Bokpoort is the end of 2012, with the developers having set a commercial operation date for the third quarter of 2015.

The project will reportedly be equipped with the largest thermal storage capacity adopted for a CSP plant of its size, which should enable it to produce 200 GWh/y.

Padmanathan says ACWA has also sought to maximise BEE participation and that IAE will not only contribute local knowledge but also provide a platform for its skills-transfer plans.

IAE chairperson Enver Asmal says the project confirms and extends its longstanding collaboration with ACWA Power in the development of power projects in Southern Africa and will enable it to gain valuable power sector experience.