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Eskom is researching the feasibility of building a concentrating solar power pilot plant with a maximum capacity of 100 MW near Upington in the Northern Cape.
Upington, which has one of the highest solar values in the world, can accommodate the 4 kmĀ² of flattish terrain and 6 000 mirrors the plant would require.
The way the system works is that mirrors track the sun and focus its rays onto a 210 m receiver, which transfers the heat to a working fluid (molten salt), which in turn is used to produce steam and operate conventional turbines.
This is mature technology which has been operating in the US for several years, but Eskom is considering enhancing the technology with SA innovations.
The decision on whether to proceed with the pilot will be made by the end of 2007. By then technical feasibility studies, detailed design work, environmental impact studies, funding arrangements, regulatory approvals, Eskom approvals and the agreement with a technology partner must be concluded.
Costs will be high - though Eskom is not saying how high. "Our aim is to get costs down to be competitive with wind as a first goal," says Steve Lennon, MD: resources & strategy at Eskom. "It will be a world first if we achieve this."
In this project Eskom is not considering using Prof Vivian Alberts' solar technology because it is not suited to this particular application. "But we are keeping an eye on developments there as it may have potential for large-scale, low-cost application in future," says Lennon.
Additional information: More info
News date: 11/11/2006