South Africa's Northern Cape celebrated as the start of construction for the 100MW Kathu concentrated solar thermal plant (CSP) commenced construction.

Awarded in round 3.5 of the department of energy’s renewable independent power programme, the Kathu solar farm is jointly owned by ENGIE (48.5%), the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) — on behalf of the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) (17.5%) — the SIOC Community Development Trust (SIOC CDT) (12.5%), the Lereko Metier REIPPP Fund Trust (11.5%), Investec Bank Limited (7.5%) and the Kathu LCT Trust (2.5%).

Kathu backed by industry

According to private engineering and construction firm Sener, the Sener and Acciona consortium was appointed as EPC Contractor by Kathu Solar Park to provide engineering, procurement and construction services for the project.

The project is funded by a mix of debt and equity. The debt is funded from a club of South African banks, namely Rand Merchant Bank, Nedbank Capital, ABSA Capital, Investec and the Development Bank of South Africa.

Equipped with parabolic troughs and a thermal energy storage capacity of 4.5 hours, the plant is set to begin operation in 2018, with the ability to generate enough power to electrify 80,000 households.

Utility PPA drives construction

In May 2016, Kathu Solar Park signed a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Eskom, enabling the start of construction, which is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2018.

According to the engineering firm, the Kathu Solar Park is forecast to offset six million tonnes of CO2 over 20 years, in addition to promoting local economic development through various projects as part of its economic development objectives.

ENGIE’s Willem Laenen commented: “Eskom is particularly interested in receiving additional electrical power during ‘peak’ times, for instance during the evening hours, when electricity consumption is highest.

“CSP technology with molten salt storage can generate electricity at its maximum design capacity during the whole of the evening peak and thereby assist Eskom greatly by delivering power exactly when this power is needed.”