12 Aug 2010
System developer completes 60 kW site, with hopes for a 50 MW utility-scale project in the Western Cape province.
Concentrix Solar, a specialist in concentrating photovoltaics (CPV) systems for high-efficiency solar energy generation, is actively pursuing a 50 MW-scale project in South Africa. Should the project come to fruition, it would represent by far the largest CPV installation yet constructed.
The development follows the completion of a 60 kW CPV installation at the Aquila Private Game Reserve in Touwsrivier. “This is the initial step in developing large-scale solar power projects in South Africa,” said Concentrix.
The high insolation and clear skies of the Western Cape province of South Africa, where the 50 MW project is under consideration, represent near-ideal conditions for CPV, which relies on capturing sunlight through an optical system and focusing it to a tiny spot on a small multi-junction solar cell.
Concentrix told optics.org that it has been investing in the region for more than two years, and that plans for the 50 MW project are well advanced: "Upon successful awarding of a PPA and all regulatory permits, Concentrix Solar seeks for start of construction of the 50 MW plant within three months' time," said the company.
"This project is now in its second year of development and is considered to be well advanced. This site was chosen due to the positive impact such a facility will have on skills development and local upliftment of the town of Touwsrivier," added Concentrix. "It is the intention to not only provide much needed power for South Africa but to also to participate in the creation of a South African solar industry where the local economy is the chief beneficiary."
The systems built by Concentrix exploit a proprietary optical technology called “FLATCON”, which was developed at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems in Freiburg, Germany, in collaboration with the Ioffe Institute in St Petersburg, Russia.
The technology is based on point-focusing Fresnel lenses to generate a concentration ratio of 500x on each high-efficiency cell. While other companies in the CPV market, for example SolFocus, use a combination of reflective optics, Concentrix believes that its modules offer a cost advantage because the Fresnel lens is relatively inexpensive.
A typical FLATCON module measures around 82 cm by 42 cm, is about 8 cm thick, and delivers a nominal output power of 75 W via 200 multi-junction cells. Concentrix offers systems arranged in a typical 8 x 15 module array, which is capable of producing 6 kW in good conditions, as well as a 216-module, 15 kW system.
While small CPV facilities such as the one installed at Touwsrivier are becoming increasingly commonplace, utility-scale CPV developments on the suggested 50 MW scale are yet to be seen (see related story). In February 2010, Concentrix announced a 1 MW contract in the US that at the time represented the largest CPV installation in the US, and one of the largest in the world.
As one of the leading CPV systems companies, Concentrix has an advanced manufacturing facility, with largely automated production and a capacity of 25 MW per year. As a result, the proposed 50 MW plant in South Africa would be equivalent to two full years’ dedicated production.
Concentrix CEO Hansjörg Lerchenmüller said of the latest developments: “CPV systems are perfectly suited for use in South Africa, with [the country’s] energy shortage, water scarcity and high temperatures. Our systems can be easily and quickly implemented, they do not need cooling water, and do not suffer from heat degradation at hot ambient temperatures.”
“In addition, this facility will initiate the transfer of know-how and serves to develop local skills in South Africa with immediate effect.”
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