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KaXu Solar One to ease pressure on energy grid

KaXu Solar One to ease pressure on energy grid

Mar 9, 2015

By Lorraine Kearney


The first house in South Africa got electricity in 1890; by 1996, 5-million homes were connected to the grid. But between 1996 and today, South Africa added 7-million houses to the national grid, “doing more in 18 years than the country previously managed in 106 years”.

This was the word of Ebrahim Patel, the economic development minister, who was speaking at the opening of KaXu Solar One outside Pofadder recently. With this success has come problems, namely the need for more power to be generated.

Solutions to this hunger for power are coming thick and fast, in the form of renewable and coal-fired power.
KaXu Solar One is the first solar thermal electricity (STE) plant in South Africa. It is also the biggest of its kind in Africa and the southern hemisphere. In opening the plant, Patel said: “Tonight, when ordinary South Africans put on their lights, put on their stoves to cook food, or watch television, some of that electricity would have been generated today near Pofadder.”

Open skies
KaXu, which means “open skies” in the local Nama language, will add 100MW of electricity from the sun to the national grid, which is equal to about 320 gigawatt hours of electricity a year.

“This is equal to the consumption of 80 000 houses, so serving more than 400 0000 South Africans. In practical terms, this is the consumption of all the households in Mossel Bay, Oudshoorn, Knysna and Swellendam combined,” said Patel.

The plant covers an area of three square kilometres. It is made up of 17nbsp;200 collectors; each collector has 10 modules; each module has 28 mirrors. There are a total of 336 000 mirrors on the plant. The mirrors track the movement of the sun.

Importantly, STE technology allows electricity to be stored for two-and-a-half hours, which means power will be supplied to the national grid when it is needed most – at peak time after dark. And it saves 315 000 tons of carbon emissions per year, said Armando Zuluaga, the chief executive of Abengoa Solar, a partner of the project.

Total investment was $891-million in KaXu, the largest parabolic trough project in the southern hemisphere, according to Javier Benjumea, the president of Abengoa Solar International Advisory Board. “It will generate power when the sun has set. It also offers increased flexibility in terms of storage. It offers the same electricity without carbon emissions and that is a game changer.”

KaXu Solar One was opened by Geoffery Qhena, the chief executive of the Industrial Development Corporation; Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel; Armando Zuluaga, the chief executive of Abengoa Solar; and Fadiel Farao, the chairman of the KaXu Community Trust. All are partners in the project.

Qhena said the IDC recognised the key importance of the green economy, and had increased its focus in renewable energy as a means to reduce reliance on coal-generated power.

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