Khi Solar One

Landmarks / Miscellaneous in or near Upington, Green Kalahari in the Northern Cape, South Africa.

Northern Cape Tourist AttractionsKhi Solar One

Where? Outside Upington, Green Kalahari, Northern Cape

Overnight? Stay in Upington, in Northern Cape

Africa’s first concentrated solar power thermal power plant lies just outside Upington, in the Northern Cape. You can see the huge 205-metre tower on the horizon from the N14, surrounded by its 4200 massive wall-like solar mirrored panels.

Out here there is little other than desert. This part of the country is sparsely populated and has plenty of sunlight (check the average daily temperature for Upington and you will understand why a solar plant might do well).

The solar plant is 140 hectares and produces 50 MW of energy, reducing the country’s carbon dioxide emissions by about 138 000 metric tons a year. It is apparently the first tower plant to achieve 24 hours of operation with solar energy only, and came into full power in October 2016.

The hollowed-out superheated steam solar tower - that is taller than Ponte City in Johannesburg - has two hours of thermal storage and uses high temperatures and a dry cooling system.

The solar mirror panels that surround it are tilted at an angle to reflect the sun’s rays onto the top of the tower. Each of them is computerised with a GPS signal that indicates the time of day and thus the best angle at which to reflect the sun.

Inside the tower are black boiling tubes that absorb the heat from the sun’s reflection. The high-pressure water pumped through these pipes boils until it is steam, which heats until there is enough pressure to turn the turbine at the top of the tower, producing electricity.

Developed by the Spanish company Abengoa, the project is part of the Department of Energy’s project to bring a combination of wind and solar energy online to the tune of 1400 MW by the end of 2016. The bigger picture is to generate 17 800 MW from renewable energy by 2030.

Khi has a community trust that gives the local community a share in the ownership of the project. It provides training and knowledge to the community.

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