Abengoa's Khi CSP tower up

Spanish infrastructure giant Abengoa has commissioned the 205m-tall receiver tower at its 50MW Khi Solar One in South Africa, sticking to a construction timeline that will see the concentrating solar power (CSP) project finished by 2016.

Khi Solar One is likely to be just the second CSP plant commissioned on the African continent following the under-construction 160MW Noor 1 in Morocco – and the first based on “power tower” technology.

Noor 1 – like the 100MW KaXu Solar One which Abengoa is building three hours from the Khi Solar One site in South Africa’s Northern Cape – is based on the more widely deployed parabolic-trough CSP technology.

The performance of Abengoa in South Africa, where it was awarded the Khi and KaXu projects in late 2011, is of huge importance to the global CSP sector as it looks to impress governments in power-hungry emerging markets.

Over the next few years, a bulge of enormous CSP projects is due to come on line in the US, including BrightSource’s 377MW and soon-to-be-finished Ivanpah in California, and SolarReserve’s 110MW Crescent Dunes in Nevada.

Eventually, though, if the CSP sector is to thrive, its momentum will have to swing towards emerging markets in places like the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia. India’s experimentation with CSP has been largely disappointing to date, with most of the projects allocated under the National Solar Mission running behind schedule and over budget.

South Africa has thus far remained adamant in its support for CSP, with officials touting its greater potential for storage than for either PV or wind as holding critical benefits for a country with major grid challenges.

The Khi and KaXu projects – both 51% owned by Abengoa – will boast two and three hours of molten-salt storage, respectively. The 50MW Bokpoort project – awarded to Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power as part of South Africa’s second renewables round – will have nine hours of storage capability.

Earlier this month Morocco opened bidding to pre-qualified participants – including Abengoa – for another 300MW of CSP capacity, one-third of it based on power-tower technology.

Thanks to Spain’s CSP boom of a few years ago, Abengoa is a world leader in both parabolic-trough and power-tower technology, having built nearly 800MW of capacity globally. Its PS20 plant, near Seville, is the world’s largest existing power-tower project.

Abengoa is currently building the 280MW Solana plant in Arizona, and earlier this year was named EPC contractor for BrightSource’s next project, the 500MW Palen.