SENER’s role in Kathu solar park as a technologist

04/04/2019 (South Africa)
SENER’s role in Kathu solar park as a technologist

Renewable energy technologies are developing globally at a phenomenal rate and the successful implementation over the past two decades of the Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) has made SENER stand out in this highly competitive industry.

Many companies took to designing and building CSP plants, but not all managed to thrive in this market where technology is the key. Some competitor’s credibility has therefore been put into question, with large plants that have failed to enter operation or have performed far below expectations.

The SENER engineering group has been involved in CSP technology since the 80’s, developing innovative in-house technological solutions to make concentrated solar energy a competitive and cost-effective option. In other words, a proven and sustainable alternative to traditional energy sources. We continuously develop and test new components and processes with the aim of reducing the cost of electricity of these plants.

With 29 projects in our portfolio, we can say that we are leaders in the CSP industry worldwide. Firstly, our largest contribution to CSP technology is the consistent use of molten salt storage in parabolic trough and central tower plants. These plants can continue producing power at night or during cloudy periods using the heat stored from the sun. This characteristic makes CSP a dispatchable technology, able to respond to the grid’s demand, which radically changes the role of renewable sources in the global power supply.

Secondly, SENER has designed, constructed and operated the first commercial tower plant in the world, Gemasolar, making this technology a viable alternative for the energy sector. Tower technology is more efficient than Parabolic Trough in most of the locations due to the higher operating temperatures of the working fluid, close to 600ºC. This maximizes cycle efficiency and reduces significantly the cost of the storage system.

Finally, we lower CSP costs with industrialised designs and processes that incorporate the lessons learnt from our previous projects. In fact, this is a key point for us since our projects implement state-of-the-art technology in this industry, in which SENER is the company with largest experience in the world. How do we mean with largest experience?

The Kathu CSP plant in South Africa gives the region a piece of infrastructure that not only generates clean energy, but also promotes local employment and different social initiatives while strengthening the region’s business sector.

It has been an exemplary project executed with excellence, reassuring this Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plant as an efficient solution in the renewable energy sector for its technological, economic, social and cultural legacy in the Northern Cape.

SENER has been responsible for the plant's conceptual and basic engineering, detail engineering and supplying equipment for the thermal storage system, engineering and construction of the solar field and the molten salt receiver, as well as the commissioning of the entire plant.

South Africa is now a beneficiary of this world class technology and we are working together with other industry role players such as Eskom to research CSP technology for South Africa’s conditions. The country now boasts specialist research capacity, Stellenbosch’s Solar Thermal Research Institute.

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