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Project developer ACWA Power said the Bokpoort CSP plant is equipped with the largest thermal storage ever adopted for a solar power plant of this class and capacity in the world

In South Africa earlier this month, the Bokpoort Concentrated Solar Park (CSP) Independent Power Project (IPP) located in Groblershoop, Northern Cape, was awarded the title of African Community Project of the Year at the African Utility Week Industry Awards.

This is the first energy project in South Africa for Saudi-based ACWA Power International, and is set to add 50MW of clean energy to the national grid when it is finalised before year end, ACWA Power said in a statement.

According to ACWA Power, since it began construction in September 2013, the Saudi company together with the municipality has implemented a number of projects following its socio-economic development strategy for the Kheis community.

These projects include:

  • The installation and maintenance of 300 solar PV home systems in the Duinefeld township which previously had no access to conventional power
  • Providing 30 computers to schools in the area, i.e. Groblershoop High School, with full internet access
  • Installation of a water reticulation system to provide much needed water to homes of neighbouring township communities
  • Building a local talent pipeline through: Having extended the local Palms Training Center to a technical training center, providing a 3 month basic technical training course amongst other offerings—More than 30 trainees have been employed during Bokpoort construction
  • Sponsoring 5 local young adults to become coded welders after a 2-year apprenticeship program at Steinmüeller Engineering in Gauteng
  • Sponsoring 3 bursaries to start non-technical and technical training in the area
  • Donating bicycles to local elementary school kids enabling them to cycle to school

Thermal storage

The Bokpoort CSP project is part of the South African Department of Energy’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Procurement Program (REIPPPP), and is being equipped with the largest thermal storage ever adopted for a solar power plant of this class and capacity in the world, ACWA Power said in a statement.

ACWA Power claims that the thermal storage capacity will be 9.3 hours enabling it to yield a record-high generation in excess of 200GWh per year well into the night every day throughout the year.

This makes CSP the only renewable technology at commercial scale to cover the country’s daily peak demand from 17:00pm to 21:00pm therefore reducing the need for power outages.

Christoph Ehlers, ACWA Power Business Director, Southern Africa said: “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 has also lead to the creation of 900 jobs in South Africa during the peak of the construction period.”

He added: “The Bokpoort CSP IPP 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 underdeveloped areas of the country, by bringing an average yearly contribution of $2 million of additional investments and creating about 60 permanent employment opportunities during the operational life of the power facility.”

Establishing long-term relationships

Ehlers stated that ACWA Power was not only a financial investor but was also a service provider of electricity and desalinated water.

“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,” Ehlers said.

The Bokpoort CSP IPP will supply enough power to meet the energy needs of an estimated 21,000 domestic households and save an estimated 230,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions during every year of operation, the power company said in a statement.

The power company added that the CSP technology used in this project will also be a contributor to offsetting South Africa’s grid peak power demand period due to its unique size of thermal storage.