South Africa green lights 1.4GW of new wind power and solar energy projects

Plans to build more than 3.5GW of renewable energy capacity in South Africa have taken a major step forward after 28 wind energy and solar power projects were approved as part of a government tender round that should serve to burnish the host country’s green credentials as the Durban Summit enters its final few days.

The government awarded preferred bidder status to projects totalling 1,416MW of capacity, split between wind farm, solar energy photovoltaic and concentrated solar power projects.

The 28 winners were selected from a total of 53 bids and now have until June 2012 to secure financial close and then begin construction.

The government awarded preferred bidder status to 18 solar PV projects totalling 632 MW, and eight wind turbines projects, totalling 634MW. Two concentrating solar thermal projects totalling 150 MW, including the 100 MW Abengoa-led KaXu Solar One also got the green light.

Included in the 632 MW of PV, the DoE selected Soitec SA (Bernin, France) to build a 36 MW concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) Plant in Touwsrivier in South Africa’s Western Cape region. The DoE also chose Abengoa SA (Seville, Spain) to develop all 150 MW of concentrating solar thermal power in two projects, a 50 MW solar power tower project and a 100 MW parabolic trough plant.

"Being awarded these two new projects is the best proof of the ongoing advances in concentrating solar power technology as a result of the important investments in R&D programs that the sector and specifically Abengoa are making," stated Abengoa CEO Manuel Sanchez Ortega. "Concentrated Solar Power will play a key role in the 21st century energy mix as it is clean, dispatchable, renewable and able to be stored."

Khi Solar One will be Abengoa’s third commercial solar tower CSP plant and the first that it will build outside of Spain. Abengoa states that the plant is more efficient than previous designs and uses higher temperatures during the generation process.

There are currently no operational commercial-scale CSP plants in South Africa, and while others have been planned, the Abengoa plants could be the first to be built in the nation.

A consortium led by Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power emerged as a major winner, securing bids to deliver one 138 MW wind farm and two solar PV projects totalling 100 MW. Siemens, Suntech and Group Five Iberdrola are expected to help deliver the technical aspects of the projects.