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Tuesday, 08 October 2013 14:31

CSPs ensure a brighter future

Concentrated solar plants (CSPs) present many advantages when compared to traditional energy-producing facilities.

South Africa’s Integrated Resources Plan (IRP) envisages the generation of an additional 56 500MW of electricity by 2030, compared with the current capacity of about 38 000MW, most of which is produced by Eskom’s coal-fuelled power stations.

“Of the new capacity, 38% is scheduled to be generated through renewable energy technologies, with 1 200MW allocated to concentrated solar power (CSP).” – South African Solar and Thermal Electricity Association (SASTELA)

With the introduction of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers’ Procurement Programme (REIPPPP), private developers are able to bid for allocations of these amounts.

According to the South African Solar and Thermal Electricity Association (SASTELA), prices paid to renewable energy generators are higher than the Eskom tariff in order to compensate developers for their initial high installation costs. The organisation says the cost of renewable energy technologies is dropping, while the Eskom tariff for its coal-based electricity is sharply rising.

Concentrated solar power (CSP) plants initially cost more to install than other forms of renewable energy and the price of the electricity it will supply will also be higher. “CSPs cost more because it delivers more. Unlike other forms of renewable energy, a CSP can produce electricity during peak times,” states SASTELA.

CSPs with added storage capacity prove to be a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly alternative for peak-time electricity generation. Despite this, the IRP has allocated an additional 5 000MW OCGT over the next 18 years, whereas CSPs have been allocated only 1 200MW.

Advantages of CSPs

CSPs have at least two major advantages over other renewable energy technologies:

Firstly, CSP’s ability to provide economically viable and proven energy storage capabilities. Like several plants in other countries, the first three CSPs in South Africa will be able to store heat energy.

The ability to store energy will enable CSP power stations to supply electricity during cloudy periods and after sunset, avoiding the major problems encountered by photovoltaic (PV) and wind energy.

The second advantage of CSPs lie in the ability to work with other forms of generation gives it another major advantage. CSP can be hybridised with other technologies and contribute to lowering the cost of electricity. A CSP unit can supply steam to fossil fuel power plants and reduce coal consumption and carbon emissions.

Although financial hurdles seem to be the main challenge preventing the CSP industry from implementing larger projects, the CSP markets in Spain and the USA are quickly becoming established. Additionally, there are a number of projects that will be implemented in Morocco and South Africa within the next few years. However, there is still a lot of hype clouding the growth potential for CSPs in emerging markets.

To achieve success on the global stage, it is vital for the industry to get a grasp on the real trends shaping these markets in order to define new opportunities and assess likely threats.

CSP value proposition in South Africa

CSPs can store heat accumulated during the day, and use it to produce steam to drive turbines and generate electricity after sunset. Current CSP plants can deliver storage of more than ten hours. CSPs can therefore play at least two major roles:

• Deliver peaking, mid-load and base-load electricity to the national grid.

• Produce steam for conventional power stations and for industrial operations, thus reducing coal usage and carbon emissions.

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to www.sastela.org and www.energy.gov.za for the information given to write this article.