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STERG Symposium

Weekly Briefing Note #10
Tuesday, 2 August 2016
The 4th Annual STERG (Solar Thermal Energy Research Group) Research Symposium
took place on the 14th and 15th July 2016 at Stellenbosch University.
Day One: The Research Day
The Research Day kicked off with a keynote address by Mr Thomas Roos from the CSIR (Centre for Scientific & Industrial Research) with a presentation entitled, “The national and international context for CSP.”  A second keynote address was given by Ms Tara Caetano from the ERC (Energy Research Centre) at UCT in a presentation titled, “South Africa’s energy transition in context.” The rest of the day featured presentations by 24 postgraduate research students on topics varying from thermal modelling, process heat and simulation, interdisciplinary topics on sustainability and environmental impacts to heliostats, optics and drones. This day gave the researchers from Stellenbosch working in solar energy the opportunity to present their work to their peers and representatives from government and industry. Riaan Meyer, CEO of GeoSun Africa concluded the day with a paper titled, “CSP vs PV - from a developer’s perspective.”
Day Two: The Industry Day
The aim of the second day was to provide an industry perspective of the CSP industry in South Africa. Industry Day speakers included representatives from SANEDI (South African National Energy Development Institute), TIA (Technology and Innovation Agency), Helio100, Abengoa Solar, ACWA Power and Engie. The two government agencies, SANEDI and TIA gave an overview of the latest activities within these organisations and also provided insight into the opportunities for further solar energy research. Abengoa Solar, a solar power company shared the lessons learnt from the Khi (50MW tower), Kaxu (100MW trough) and Xina (100MW trough) CSP plants. Their competitor, ACWA Power, gave an account of the performance for the recently commissioned Bokpoort (50MW) trough plant and the perceived future for CSP in South Africa.  In his presentation, Mr Nandu Bhula representing ACWA Power challenged the audience to consider the potential implications of a review of the current role of CSP contributing electricity during the winter peak demand periods, a “peaking plant” and a “load-follower” in the summer. This will make the electricity from a CSP plant even more valuable than that from base-load nuclear or coal plants.  Lastly, Engie provided an overview of the opportunities for CSP on the African continent and provided details of their Khatu Solar Park (100MW).

The Industry Day ended with a panel discussion facilitated by Prof. Wikus van Niekerk on the topic, “Where is CSP headed in South Africa and globally?”.  Representatives from ACWA Power, Abengoa Solar, Engie and GeoSun made up a lively interactive panel of experts. Although competitors when it comes to business, all agreed on some of the challenges they face within industry as well as the complexity of developing appropriate policies for socio-economic development and climate change mitigation. Some of the emerging issues included the technical network grid codes for CSP, peak-hour tariff incentives for CSP plants with storage, the socio-economic development requirements of the REI4P (Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme) and the current cost of CSP compared to other renewable and conventional technologies.

Unsurprisingly, all panel members hailed the REI4P process and agreed that REI4P has been successful at eliminating some of the uncertainty that they are faced with in other countries. The golden thread from the discussion was that appropriate policy is critical to the future of CSP and also that the value of renewable energy from CSP must be seen in the context of the contribution these plants can make as mid-merit or dispatchable power plants.

This symposium was a reminder that partnerships between industry, government and academia are critical for the successful development of South Africa’s energy sector.
We look forward to the 5th Annual STERG Research Symposium in July 2017!
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