South Africa has the space and the sunlight, so what better region to plan a 5-gigawatt solar park that could not only generate massive amounts of solar energy, but also serve as a field test for emerging technologies in PV energy, concentrating photovoltaic PV and concentrating solar power, or CSP.
The goal is ambitious, but the path is uncertain, so the South African government recently selected Irving, Texas-based Fluor Corporation to study the logistics for an undisclosed amount under contract.
Fluor, a global engineering design/build firm that built its reputation on the back of the emerging petroleum industry in the 1920s, today works in industries as diverse as life science and telecommunications, with renewable energy a growing area of expertise.
According to Reuters, the initiative is a natural extension of a pre-feasibility study conducted by the Clinton Climate Initiative (William J. Clinton Foundation), which allows Fluor to flesh out a master plan to be unveiled at the South African Solar Park Investors Conference, Oct. 28 and 29, in Northern Cape Province, where the solar park would be located.
The Clinton Climate Initiative, in May of 2009 and in cooperation with the U.S. Green Building Council (which formulates and regulates LEED), launched a program called the Climate Positive Development Program, which offers a Climate Positive greenhouse gas metric by which to evaluate urban expansion at home and abroad.
According to South Africa’s Department of Energy, final costs could run as high as $22 billion (150 billion rand), and South African Minister of Energy Dipuo Peters sees the project as presenting his regions with a singular opportunity to take the lead in South African solar technology manufacture.
And in fact, what better place to start than in an area blessed with 1,800 to 2,200 kilowatt hours per square meter (kWh/sq m) of insolation? For comparison, the best that sunny California can do is only about 700 kWh/sq m.
My only complaint? Why wasn’t former president Bill Clinton this active in the solar energy movement during his presidency?