The groundbreaking ceremony for the commencement of construction at the Bokpoort Concentrated Solar Power plant has been held today in Groblershoop, South Africa.
The ceremony has been hosted by Saudi company ACWA Power International, who leads the consortium awarded to develop the CSP plant in the Northern Cape region.
The Bokpoort CSP plant, 50 MW parabolic trough with 9.3 hours of thermal energy storage, was awarded in the second round of the South African Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Program to a consortium comprising ACWA and Solafrica Thermal Energy.
The plant is expected to generate a record-high of roughly 200 GWh per year, equipped with the largest thermal energy storage ever adopted for a solar power plant of this class and capacity in the world. A typical 50 MW parabolic trough plant without storage can hardly reach 120 GWh. The energy storage feature makes CSP the only renewable technology at commercial scale to cover the country's daily peak demand from 5 to 9 PM thereby helping to prevent power black outs.
Spanish companies Acciona, SENER and TSK, with a vast track record of CSP development in Spain and otehr countries, were awarded the Engineering Procurement and Construction contract. More details about the pant are available here, in our CSP world map.
Mohammed Bin Abdullah Abunayyan, Chairman of ACWA Power, stated in his address at the ground breaking ceremony, “It was only three years ago that ACWA Power decided to expand our operations outside of our Saudi Arabian home market. ACWA Power targeted four countries which we believe are the most promising; Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia and of course South Africa. We have already started work on three major projects which represent a total of 800 MW in the pipeline and an investment commitment of R4.5 Billion to date. Over the next five years we aim to establish a multi fuel portfolio (coal, gas, hydro, solar and wind) and deliver 4000 MW over these four countries.”
In addition to wealth creation within South Africa and the local community via the direct investments in the project company, the participation in construction, operation and maintenance by South African companies with previously disadvantaged community participation; it will also lead to the creation of 900 jobs in South Africa during the peak of the construction period, according to company estimates.
The Bokpoort CSP plant will also inject significant socio-economic value into the rural South African economy in the vicinity of the power facility, which is to be located in one of the most under developed areas of the country, by bringing an average yearly contribution of US$2 million of additional investments and creating about 60 permanent employment opportunities during the operational life of the power facility.
Paddy Padmanathan, President & CEO of ACWA Power added “As ACWA Power is also not just a financial investor but a service provider of such basic utilities as electricity and desalinated water, entering a new market means establishing the foundation for a long-term relationship with the country as a whole and the local community we serve. We therefore place a great deal of emphasis on socio-economic sustainability of the nation’s we serve and have facilitated maximum levels of South African participation in the entire project.”
“In addition to a 5% community shareholding, which far exceeds the Government's minimum 2.5% requirement, for whom the equity funding was provided by PIC; ACWA Power as an investor in this project has taken the unusual step of providing funds to Lereko Solafrica Investments (Pty) Limited, owned by previously disadvantaged citizens to hold 13% shares in the project on the same terms as is usually provided by South African government owned development finance institutions. We are also proud of the fact that in addition to the local community shareholding, particular focus on this project will be on youth development and HIV/AIDS awareness through Lovelife, a national NGO."
“Instead of waiting about two more years until the plant is operational before we implement the community development projects outlined in the programme, ACWA Power has taken the initiative to provide upfront funding of R5 million, and to start immediate rollout of activities so that the community can see the benefits of such a development from the earliest stages of the project,” commented Abunayyan.
"It is our responsibility to develop a talent pipeline for our future workforce, and ACWA Power has undertaken to bring the local education levels up to the highest standard. In addition to offering internships and bursaries to the youth who show an active interest, ACWA Power will also be providing new computers to the Groblershoop High School and will support the establishment of a training Centre.”
“It is equally vital to ensure the communities who share a neighbourhood with the CSP Plant have their own access to an efficient power and water supply. Over the next two years ACWA Power will install over 500 solar lights in the Duineveldt and other communities, and this commitment will grow as we further engage with the community and ascertain their needs as the project develops.”
Whilst South Africa relies heavily on coal to meet its energy needs, the country is well-endowed with renewable energy resources that offer sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels. With the CSP technology to be used, the Bokpoort CSP IPP will provide electricity to approximately 21 000 households and save approximately 230 000 tons of CO2 equivalent emissions during every year of operation. The technology used in this project will also be a contributor to offsetting South Africa's grid peak power demand period in particular due to its unique size of thermal storage.