South Africa’s largest solar power plant begins construction

Construction of South Africa’s largest renewable energy project to date – the Redstone concentrated solar power (CSP) plant – has commenced.

The R11.6 billion solar farm will be built roughly 30km east of Postmasburg in the Northern Cape and will have a generating output capacity of 100MW.

While this is less than the current largest solar power plant in South Africa – the De Aar project in the Northern Cape – it comes equipped with a 12-hour thermal storage system.

This makes it capable of persistently delivering electricity to almost 200,000 households, double the number powered by the De Aar plant.

The solar plant is expected to displace an estimated 440 metric tons of CO2 emissions per year.

The project is being led by California-based SolarReserve and Saudi developer, investor, and operator of power generation and water desalination plants ACWA Power, which secured financing from leading international and South African financial institutions.

Investors include the African Development Bank (AfDB), Absa Bank, Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), CDC Group, Nedbank Limited, Nederlandse Financierings-Maatschappij voor Ontwikkelingslanden (FMO), Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG), Investec Bank and Sanlam Life Insurance.

ACWA Power Chief Portfolio Management Officer and Acting Chief Investment Officer Rajit Nanda said the company was proud to play a role in South Africa’s decarbonisation efforts and grateful for its partners’ contributions to deliver power at an affordable cost.

“Following in the footsteps of the record-breaking Bokpoort CSP and deploying the same thermal salt storage system, Redstone CSP is set to be yet another ACWA Power flagship project in South Africa that directly benefits households in the area with remarkable plant performance,” Nanda stated.

CSP plants use numerous mirrors which concentrate light energy from the sun and convert it into heat which can then be channeled through a typical generator to generate electricity.

Redstone is a power tower-based system with a central receiver to which the sun’s rays are directed via a network of mirrors surrounding it.

The receiver contains a fluid – typically molten salt – which is heated to immediately make steam for electricity generation or storage.

ACWA Power said that in addition to providing clean and reliable energy to the national grid, the Redstone CSP will deliver tangible socio-economic benefits.

The construction project will create more than 2,000 jobs at its peak, including about 400 from the local community. It will also result in approximately 100 permanent direct jobs during the operating period.

Furthermore, the project will reach close to 44% local content on procurement during construction.

Commercials operations at Redstone CSP are expected to commence in the fourth quarter of 2023, with  100% of design capacity expected to be reached within 365 days from that date.

Notably, it is expected to be the first renewable energy plant in the country to provide ancillary services at no cost to Eskom.

This would allow the power utility to tap into Redstone’s reserve resources when it requires additional capacity to serve electricity demand.

The image below shows a rendering of what the Redstone CSP will look like once constructed at its planned site in the Northern Cape.

A rendering of Redstone CSP is shown in the centre-right of the image. Towards its left are the existing Jasper and Lesedi PV solar farms.

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South Africa’s largest solar power plant begins construction