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South Africa’s Kathu Solar Park officially inaugurated

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Kathu Solar Park, one of South Africa’s largest renewable energy project has started commercial operation, its developers  Sener and Acciona have announced.

Kathu Solar Park is a Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) Independent Power Producer project currently on commercial operation.

Cutting-edge energy generation and storage technology is pumping 100MW into the national grid and providing 179,000 households in the Northern Cape with constant power.

Thanks to this dispatchable supply, the plant will prevent the emission of six million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere over the next 20 years.

Sener CEO, Jorge Unda, declared during the inauguration: “We are proud to have contributed to make this clean energy project a reality in South Africa. From SENER, we have contributed with our knowledge in engineering, construction and commissioning, from the experience of our engineers in about thirty solar power plants developed in different parts of the world and, thus, with the best of our technology. Our leadership position in solar thermal power installations, with world-renowned pioneer projects, is a guarantee for the efficiency and profitability of Kathu Solar Park. We have left our mark not only in this project, but also in the local community, through social projects that have benefited nearly 17,000 people.”

Ramón Jiménez, Managing Director of ACCIONA Industrial, said, “The Kathu Solar Park project is another example of ACCIONA’s commitment to renewable energy. Construction of this plant has had and will have a major impact on the economy and residents of the Northern Cape region in South Africa. Kathu Solar Park provides the local community with a safe and manageable power supply, helping to offset the effects of climate change. Its construction has been a complete success thanks to the team that worked on the project, as well as the excellent relationship with the local administration, the business sector and with our client Kathu Solar Park.”

Kathu Solar Park was one of the projects awarded – on December 15th, 2014 – during bid window 3.5 of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) by the South African Department of Energy (DoE).

The joint venture between SENER and ACCIONA –led by this last company- was appointed by the consortium Kathu Solar Park (led by ENGIE and including a group of South African investors comprising SIOC Community Development Trust, Investec Bank, Lereko Metier Sustainable Capital Fund, its co-investors FMO, the Dutch development bank and DEG, the German investment and development company and the Public Investment Corporation) to provide the engineering, procurement and construction services for the project.

Cutting edge technology

Thanks to the contribution of the EPC consortium formed by SENER and ACCIONA, Kathu Solar Park has a cutting-edge technology that allows the plant to operate with high efficiency and performance to deliver energy to the South African grid, particularly during the evening peak.

To achieve this, Kathu Solar Park uses parabolic trough technology equipped with a molten salt storage system that allows for 4.5 hours of thermal energy storage to provide reliable electricity in the absence of solar radiation, after sunset and with cloudy weather.

Besides, the parabolic trough technology is a patented optimised collector technology by SENER, the SENERtrough®-2 system, which collectors are designed to optimise the power storage capacity and keep costs to a minimum. The technique involves using 384,000 large mirrors at Kathu Solar Park to reflect sunlight and collect solar heat to generate electricity.

Social upliftment

The construction of this facility has also dedicated a global investment in social initiatives which have borne fruit over the past three years in the communities surrounding Kathu. Therefore, the EPC consortium formed by SENER and ACCIONA has carried out, through an independent organisation, the Kelebogile Trust – established and fully funded by the EPC consortium with 1.25 M€ – several social initiatives supporting near 17,000 beneficiaries.

Some 75 % of the budget available for these activities was used to improve education levels in the community, while the remaining 25 % was allocated to boost small and medium-sized businesses in the region, and to improve training for their employees to create new business opportunities and encourage local hiring.

The results of these initiatives include the creation of more than 5,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs during the construction phase of Kathu. Specialist training was also given to local personnel to operate the plant to ensure the transfer of knowledge and training for new professional profiles.

In addition to this, Kathu Solar Park has set up a Social Economic Development (SED) programme, investing 530,000 € on 27 initiatives during the construction phase; and will allocate 1 % of the revenue during the operation phase for education, health care, social welfare projects in the John Taolo Gaetsewe district, with the aim to further foster more local and rural progress.

Joint experience in South Africa

For SENER and ACCIONA, this is the second solar thermal power project jointly developed by the two companies in South Africa. The first was the 50 MW Bokpoort plant (Upington), officially opened in late 2016, for which they were also part of the construction consortium. This plant was awarded ‘Large Scale Renewable Energy Project’ in the African Utility Week Industry 2017 Awards.

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