Spanish boost for 200 MW Concentrated Solar Power in Botswana

The consortium will also identify the technology, plant design and location for the concentrated solar energy project. This means that communities of Jwaneng, Selebi-Phikwe, Serowe, Letlhakeng and Maun are closer to knowing whether the multi-billion pula pioneering concentrating solar thermal power station will be coming their way or not.

Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) awarded the US$1.5 million (P11.2 million) contract to the consortium, which is led by Spain’s National Renewable Energy Centre (CENER), recently.

Funding for the BFS that is due complete by September 2012 has been sourced from the World Bank and the African Development Bank under the total P2.4 billion loaned by the two institutions towards the 600 MW Morupule B project.

According to information availed by BPC, CENER and its partners outranked six other bidders for the BFS, scoring highest in the bid evaluation process. CENER outscored its rivals in technical prowess, but was the more expensive than others who included firms from the US, the United Kingdom and South Africa.

Despite the higher cost of its bid, CENER scored higher overall as the financial portion of bids carried lower weighting than the technical in the final aggregates bid scores.

According to its terms of reference, CENER’s consortium will be responsible for designing the concentrated solar energy plant, conducting a detailed assessment of plant location, identifying project risks and mitigation measures as well as elaborating on "discrete components" in concentrating solar power plants.

Besides the highly anticipated decision on a location for the solar power station, all eyes are also on the consultants’ findings regarding electricity generation costs, given the prevailing gap between real and subsidised electricity tariffs.

It is expected the station will be commissioned well after the energy and water regulator is established, providing a legislative buffer for consumers against the expected high tariff costs associated with solar power.

CENER and partners are expected to determine the concentrating solar power station’s capital and operating expenditure, which will largely decide how costly electricity coming out of the plant will be.

Spanish consultants have already visited Botswana as part of the contract award. "Manuel Blanco, CENER’s solar power director, came to kickstart the project alongside all the institutions and entities involved, as well as to open CENER’s office in Botswana and carry out a review of the scope of work along with other project partners.

Say a statement from the firm: "Work has already started to assess the technical and economic feasibility of this project, with CENER as technical project leader."

The Spaniards will leverage off a 2009 Pre-feasibility Study (PFS) that shows that Botswana has strong solar irradiation capable of supporting a solar power station. The study also proposed that the station take the form of 4 x 50 megawatt units, with the possibility of Independent Power Producer (IPP) involvement.

The concentrating solar power station has its genesis in a 2006 renewable energy-based rural electrification agreement between the Government of Botswana and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It forms part of a range of initiatives to reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels and costly diesel-fired power stations.