Ambitious plans for 5 gigawatt solar plant in South Africa
Concentrating solar mirrors are one potential technology to be used in the proposed 5GW solar park in South Africa (Image: langalex via Flickr)
Laying claim to “what will be the world’s largest solar power plant” is difficult these days with so many in development, but the Texas-based Fluor corporation is drawing up plans for a five gigawatt (GW) plant in South Africa that would certainly make it amongst the world’s largest. Following a feasibility study, the company has been selected to draw up plans for a potential solar park to be built on the edge of the Kalahari Desert in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa – an area the South African government says is amongst the sunniest three percent of regions in the world.
Currently, the world’s largest operational solar power plant is the 80MW Sarnia Solar Project completed last month in Canada. No sooner had it commenced operation than a 1GW plant known as the Blythe Solar Power Project received approval to be built in California. The U.S. plant is expected to take six years to complete and won't generate as much power as the proposed 2GW plant planned for China, but the South African government hopes its Solar Park will be generating 1GW as early as 2012 and a total of 5GW by 2020.
Last week more than 400 potential investors and solar energy experts gathered at the two-day Solar Park Investors Conference held in the small town of Upington where the park is to be built to learn more about the project. The site is seen as ideal for a solar park as it hardly ever rains, rarely has clouds, and doesn’t have sandstorms. The park carries an estimated price tag of 150 billion Rand (approx. US$22 billion), most of which would be provided by private investors.
The park proposed by Fluor would be built over a ten-year period and make use of various solar technologies, possibly including photovoltaic, concentrated photovoltaic and concentrating solar power technologies such as power tower and parabolic trough solutions.
With the project, the South African government is looking to kick-start cleaner energy solutions to allow the country to meet its international obligations on climate change. Definitely a move in the right direction for a country that currently derives over 90 percent of its annual 45–48GW of power generated each year from coal fired power plants.
About the Author
Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.
All articles by Darren Quick
South Africa has some rich people and a decent industrial base, but it is still largely a poor country by world standards. What a shame that they plan to spend $22B on a project that could get them the same power using natural gas for much much less. A huge sacrifice to the (likely false) god of CO2 warming. Even in a desert, the best solar systems produce power @ over 25 cents/KWH. Gas fired power is under 5 cents.
With an average of more than 2,500 hours of sunshine every year, South Africa has the perfect climate for solar panels.
South Africa\'s solar radiation output is over twice that of Europe - making it one of the highest in the world - and is the most readily accessible resource available.
This immense energy resource lends itself to a number of potential uses and the country\'s solar-equipment industry is growing with a number of companies in South Africa selling solar panels and other related solar energy products.
This large scale Solar Plant in South Africa will act as catalyst to spur the movement of solar Energy in the rest of the African Region.
Valid thoughts from \"tsvieps\" however the local politics is their major hurdle. If the money was just given to the government, the high rate of corruption and cronyism would mean that it would never do anything for the impoverished area\'s. The project being where it is will at least bring Money to one of the poorest area\'s (Northern Cape Province). South Africa has already bankrupted its current Electric supply monopoly by hiring unqualified \"Executives\" (pronounced Crony) based on their Affirmative action like scheme.
They had the guts ripped out of their power when the CEO refused to renegotiate transport prices for their Coal (which is abundant in SA)and the transport network went bankrupt because of rising Oil prices. In effect ceasing all power-station fuel supplies for a period of months from which it is not yet recovered some years later.
The grid development was on track to be upgraded regularly under the old white regime, but this was deemed secondary to other expenditure by the new \"executives\" who have now been fired due to incompetence. The development scheme also spent much money on so called Pebble Bed Reactor development only to find it not feasible & the scientist who sold them the idea has responded by saying that he had not proven that it would work but in theory it should. That is not the kind of management you would want to have for your countries power Monopoly. I hope that this new Solar plant will not fall under the same management.
They have also been \"selling\" large amounts of Electricity to neighboring countries (Zimbabwe, Mozambique included) which cannot be paid for so is in effect being done at cost to the South African customers. I would think very carefully if I were Flour, before putting it in under this kind of government, unless they get some sort of bullet proof guarantees.
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