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Khi Solar One near Upington achieves a technological milestone

By Abengoa on 30 March 2016
Khi Solar One's central tower (Image: Abengoa)

Abengoa, together with the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and Khi Community Trust, has successfully completed 24 consecutive hours of commercial solar thermal power plant operation, solely powered by solar energy, in its Khi Solar One plant near Upington.

According to Abengoa, the 50 MW, steam-driven solar thermal plant which recently began commercial operation in early February 2016, supplies enough clean energy to power around 45 000 South African households.

The plant accumulates steam at high temperatures and pressure, and allows for the generation of electricity after sunset for two hours at full capacity. However, the plant can operate for much longer into the night when not producing at full capacity, and the recent production of electricity for 24 hours using only the steam generated through solar energy is a milestone in innovation for Abengoa.

The commercial operation of Khi Solar One is the result of significant research and development by Abengoa into solar thermal tower plants at the Solucar solar complex in Spain. Experience gained from the operation of the pilot plant allowed for the optimisation of technology and served as a reference for project financing in South Africa. This has culminated in the launch of a plant with increased efficiency, performance and production in terms of cost compared to previous tower-type plants.

This project also offers numerous environmental and socioeconomic benefits. It avoids the production of 183 000 tonnes of CO2 per year and provides clean power to the South African grid. As part of the South Africa’s REIPPP programme, the plant has also promoted local economic development with the participation of a large number of local businesses. Similarly, the plant's 20% ownership by the Khi Community Trust will ensure the continuity of investment in the community.

Along with this plant, Abengoa, IDC, PIC and KaXu Community Trust are currently in the process of building another 100 MW parabolic trough plant, Xina Solar One, near Pofadder in the Northern Cape. This plant will employ a storage system that will allow the plant to operate for five hours without the sun. These projects demonstrate the commitment by Abengoa, IDC, PIC, Khi and Kaxu Community Trusts to the development of renewable energy in South Africa as part of the government strategy to bring 17 800 MW of renewable energy by 2030.

khi-solar-one-229032016sm The Khi Solar One central tower CSP plant from the air (Image: Abengoa)
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