247Solar and South Africa’s Stellenergy (Pty) Ltd. have agreed to build South Africa’s first 247Solar PlantTM to be followed by widespread commercial deployment in southern Africa. The agreement is based on the growing awareness that 247Solar’s technology is designed to deliver electricity 24/7, i.e., every hour of the day, not just when the sun is shining, to many of the 1.5 billion people in the world without electricity.
Of particular interest to power customers worldwide is that the 247Solar Plant is competitive with electricity from photovoltaics, but without PV’s drawback of operating only when the sun shines. 247Solar Plants, on the other hand, can achieve non-stop power generation by converting sunlight to heat, which is used to power jet-engine-like turbines, which in turn spin a generator to produce electricity. Simultaneously, the Plant inexpensively stores some of the sun’s energy as heat for nighttime use, rather than as electricity in costly batteries. The system can burn small amounts of fuel if needed for uninterruptible, 24/7 power generation.
One of the five subsystems of the 247Solar Plants is a field of mirrors, called heliostats, that track the sun to reflect it to a small device on top of a tower to create the Plant’s high temperature heat. Stellenergy brings to the partnership an innovative heliostat design, which was invented at Stellenbosch University near South Africa’s Cape Town.
Bruce Anderson, 247Solar’s CEO, stated, “Southern Africa has a large and growing need for low-cost, reliable electricity. We are delighted to be incorporating this innovative heliostat field into our system and to be working with Stellenergy to commercialize it.”
Stellenergy CEO Paul Gauche stated, “We have eagerly anticipated 247Solar’s entry into the large southern African market, and we are pleased that we have reached agreement to incorporate our technology into their 247Solar Plant and to commercialize it here. Not only are 247Solar Plants most likely to generate power at the lowest cost, but they can be built quickly and operated simply. They’re ideal alternatives to coal power plants because they operate 24/7 and are usually located much closer to the user.”
The first step in the collaboration by the companies is to build Africa’s first 247Solar Plant. The Plant, which is a pre-engineered standardized “module”, will produce 300 to 400 kWe of power around the clock. South Africa has been one of the world’s most active solar markets, and thousands of these modules could be used over the coming years to replace the country’s aging coal plants as they are shut down.
Further, 247Solar Plants improve grid performance by reliably and instantly responding to fluctuating power demands of the grid. This is unlike coal plants that break down frequently. In addition, like wind machines, every 247Solar Plant is identical to the next for continuous cost reductions through factory production. This approach enables rapid on- site assembly and short, lower risk project cycles. A majority of components will be made in South Africa, creating jobs for skilled and unskilled workers, increasing the local content of projects, and building industrial capacity.
247Solar is in negotiations with companies throughout the world who want to build power projects using 247Solar Plants. In April of this year, the company signed a Joint Venture Agreement with a Chinese partner. China has emerged as the world’s largest CSP market. After prioritizing the manufacturing and deployment of PV and wind in its 12th 5-Year Plan in 2011, China became the world’s largest market for those two technologies. Now, its 13th 5-Year Plan, effective since January 1 of this year, is calling for a similar emphasis on CSP.