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2cloudsabove9
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South Africa unveils plans for 'world's biggest' solar power plantGiant mirrors and solar panels in Northern Cape would reduce carbon emissions and generate one-tenth of the country's energy needs

Share161 Comments (39) David Smith in Johannesburg guardian.co.uk, Monday 25 October 2010 17.01 BST Article history
A worker makes adjustments before the inauguration ceremony of a parabolic trough solar thermal power plant in Alvarado, eastern Spain, 2009. Photograph: Nacho Doce/Reuters

South Africa is to unveil plans this week for what it claims will be the world's biggest solar power plant – a radical step in a coal-dependent country where one in six people still lacks electricity.

The project, expected to cost up to 200bn rand (£18.42bn), would aim by the end of its first decade to achieve an annual output of five gigawatts (GW) of electricity - currently one-tenth of South Africa's energy needs.

Giant mirrors and solar panels would be spread across the Northern Cape province, which the government says is among the sunniest 3% of regions in the world with minimal cloud or rain.

The government hopes the solar park will help reduce carbon emissions from Africa's biggest economy, which is still more than 90% dependent on coal-fired power stations. In April, the World Bank came in for sharp criticism from environmentalists for approving a $3.75bn (£2.37bn) loan to build one of the world's largest coal-fired power plants in the country.

Energy is already a high priority in South Africa where, at the end of racial apartheid, less than 40% of households had electricity. Over 16 years the governing African National Congress has undertaken a huge national expansion, with a recent survey showing that 83% are now connected, but power outages are still not uncommon in both townships and middle-class suburbs.

An estimated 200 foreign and domestic investors will meet this week in Upington, Northern Cape, with a view to funding the hugely ambitious solar project. A master plan will be set out by the US engineering and construction group Fluor. This follows a viability study by the Clinton Climate Initiative, which described South Africa's "solar resource" as among the best in the world.

Jonathan de Vries, the project manager, said today: "I'd hate to make a large claim but yes, this would be the biggest solar park in the world."

De Vries said the park, costing 150-200bn rand, would aim to be contributing to the national grid by the end of 2012. In the initial phase it would produce 1,000 megawatts, or 1GW, using a mix of the latest solar technologies.

An initial 9,000 hectares of state-owned land have been earmarked for the park, with further sites in the "solar corridor" being explored.

De Vries, a special adviser to the energy minister, said the Northern Cape had been chosen for insolation readings (a measure of solar energy) that rank among the highest in the world. "It hardly ever rains, it hardly has clouds. It's even better than the Sahara desert because it doesn't have sandstorms."

The Orange River would provide water for the facilities, he added, while existing power transmission lines would be closer than for similar projects such as in Australia.

Northern Cape, which contains the historic diamond-rush town, Kimberley, is South Africa's biggest province and one of its poorest. But it is hoped that the park would create a "solar hub" and regenerate the local economy with fresh opportunities in manufacturing.

South Africa currently consumes 45-48GW of power per year. It is estimated this will double over the next 25 years. "In South Africa over 90% of our power comes from the burning of coal and we need to reduce this because of our international obligations on climate change," de Vries said.

"If this proves to be cost competitive with coal and nuclear, the government will roll out more solar parks. This is a very bold attempt."

He added: "Solar power isn't a panacea that will cure all but it's a part of the solution, and a very important part. There are zones in the world that are ideally suited to it, often those with low population density."
 

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2cloudsabove9
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US and South Africa race to deliver world's largest solar farms
US will get there first with 1GW plant, but South Africa's plan for a 5GW solar park threaten to put everyone in the shade

James Murray, BusinessGreen, 26 Oct 2010
The US and South Africa this week have each moved a step closer to building two giant new solar farms, both of which will lay a claim to being the world's largest and could serve to establish the countries as solar technology hubs.

The US looks set to secure the title first after the Department of the Interior yesterday gave final approval to a proposed 1GW solar project planned for Blythe, California.

The giant project is backed by German solar firm Solar Millennium and is expected to cover 7,000 acres, ultimately providing energy for up to 750,000 homes.

US secretary of the interior Ken Salazar hailed the project as a "major milestone" in the development of America's renewable energy economy, adding that it provided further evidence that the US government will support the emerging low-carbon sector.

The company is still in talks with the US Department of Energy in an attempt to secure $1.9bn (£1.19m) in federal loan guarantees, but it said that it was confident that the project would begin before the end of the year.

The project, which will use giant parabolic troughs to concentrate the sun's heat on a fluid tube that will be used to create steam that drives a turbine, will be rolled out in four phases with each unit generating up to 250MW of power.

The planning approval represents the latest in a series of green lights for large solar farms in southern California. For example, construction is scheduled to begin on Wednesday at another recently approved major project, Brightsource's high-profile Ivanpah solar farm.

However, Blythe's status as the world's largest solar farm could prove short lived if ambitious plans to be unveiled in South Africa later this week are realised.

According to reports in the Guardian, the country's government will this week unveil plans for a £18.4bn project that would ultimately generate up to 5GW of electricity, meeting up to 10 per cent of South Africa's current energy needs.

Up to 200 potential investors are expected top meet this week to hear about the plans, which would see a string of solar plants cover a 9,000 hectare area in the Northern Cape, a region with some of the highest levels of solar energy in the world.

The plan will be presented by US engineering giant Fluor and is backed by a viability study from the Clinton Climate Initiative. Experts predicted that the work on the initial 1GW facility could get under way as early as 2012 with the entire solar farm completed by 2020.

Jonathan de Vries, the project manager, told the Guardian that the development would represent the largest solar park in the world, adding that the Northern Cape provided the perfect location for the project. "It hardly ever rains, it hardly has clouds," he said. "It's even better than the Sahara desert because it doesn't have sandstorms."

In related news, another ambitious African renewable energy project delivered an encouraging update this week when Kenya's government-backed Geothermal Development Company (GDC) announced that it has secured 40 per cent of the money it requires to build a pioneering 2GW geothermal power plant in the Rift Valley.

GDC managing director Silas Simiyu told news agency Reuters that the company had already raised $400m, and was moving forward with plans to deliver 500MW of geothermal energy by the end of 2012 and 1GW by 2015.

"There is a lot of excitement in terms of the support that we are getting from outside," he said. "When we came up with our business plan and we talked of 5,000MW by 2030, it was thought that the plan was very ambitious."
 

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USA vs. SA, may the best man win. This is good news for both countries. Both need to move away from energy resources that pollute. And this is definitely a future growth field. If the SA govt was serious about renewable energy, they would also push for the further development of SA grown renewable energy equipment manufacturers. Then urge them to export to the massive, developing African market.
 

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Good for the Northern Cape. Left out of the World cup action, but has the best project going on after the world cup!
 

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èđđeůx;66411593 said:
USA vs. SA, may the best man win. This is good news for both countries. Both need to move away from energy resources that pollute. And this is definitely a future growth field. If the SA govt was serious about renewable energy, they would also push for the further development of SA grown renewable energy equipment manufacturers. Then urge them to export to the massive, developing African market.
i agree. the potential is endless
 

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You know I didn't expect this from my own country, I mean we all know how we're sooooo addicted in burning coal just to watch TV.

Great news for the country if the project goes through there economic and engineering spinoffs are countless andd not to mention the much needed jobs in the NC and aha we would add 1 cm to the sizes of our sex organs in the oasis sections :lol:
 
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