For decades solar energy has been the darling of the energy sector, but it faced serious problems and technological hurdles that halted major development because it largely made this power source redundant as soon as the sun went down. It has been one of the major stumbling blocks that meant that while everyone wanted to see the growth, photo voltaic energy has lagged behind when compared to the established energy sources of oil, gas and coal. Unable to ignore such a ripe opportunity, SolarReserve has stepped up to the plate and in good American style hit a home run.
THE GOAL SMASHING SOLARRESERVE
A global developer of utility-scale solar power projects including electricity generation by solar thermal energy and photovoltaic panels, SolarReserve is a front runner in its industry. Greatly profiting from their integrated technology, which combines advanced solar thermal technology with integrated energy storage that has solved the intermittency issues experienced with other renewable energy sources, they are striding ahead in this competitive market.
As CEO Kevin Smith says, “Our unique and innovated technology means that we can collect the sun’s energy, store it and provide it around the clock even after the sun goes down,”
This proven technology is so reliable that it has allowed SolarReserve to make far longer-term plans than any of their competitors, factoring in their ability to store the energy that they gather and the fact that the technology is able to compete with traditional fossil-fired and nuclear electricity generation, which has meant a major step in the development and sustainability of photovoltaic technology.
“We currently have more than $1.8 billion worth of projects in operation worldwide,” he explains, “With development and long-term power contracts for 482 megawatts (MW) of solar projects representing $2.8 billion of project capital.”
Kevin explains that the global demand for renewable energy generation is going to grow by 45% by 2020 and this is a conservative estimation, assuming that the electricity usage per person through iPhones, iPads, home appliances etc does not increase and that the current sources and methods we have for generating energy- through gas, oil and coal- will not be able to keep up with this demand.
Billions have been invested into developing better means of storing energy and trillions more are needed to bring this up to scale and the integrated storage technology that SolarReserve make use of means that this investment has not only been productively spent, but can now take this industry to the next level and beyond.
For the most part, the consumer does not care about where their electricity comes from, only that it is reliable and now, thanks to SolarReserve, the industry may be ready to provide this to the world.
Since the company’s formation in early 2008, SolarReserve’s experienced team of power project professionals has assembled an extensive global development pipeline of 6.6 gigawatts (GW) across the world’s most attractive, high growth renewable energy markets. The robust portfolio is strategically positioned to secure power offtake contracts and includes advanced solar thermal technology (Concentrating Solar Power or “CSP”), photovoltaic (PV) technology and hybrid (combined CSP and PV). SolarReserve’s hybrid CSP/PV solutions eliminate the intermittency issues associated with PV-only projects, while providing cost efficient and reliable electricity generation.
While SolarReserve is headquartered in Santa Monica, California it maintains a global presence with seven international offices strategically located in Africa, the Americas, the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East and Europe to support its widespread project development activities across more than 20 countries. The experienced management team has a proven track record of success in the energy infrastructure sector, with over 27 GW and $48 billion of transaction experience in 25 countries.
Kevin explains that to stay at the head of this industry, SolarReserve deploy a full spectrum of development, engineering, finance, project management, operation and maintenance, and product development expertise into their projects.
“I think solar energy will play a big part in our energy future,” he says, “Offering a limitless supply, improving technology and tech to store and supply around the clock. As demand increases we’ll have to tap into this sector more but now we’re able to make long term plans.”
HOW DOES INTEGRATED STORAGE WORK?
Kindly explaining on their website, SolarReserve’s game-changing Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) technology with molten salt energy storage captures and stores the sun’s power to reliably provide electricity whenever it’s needed most.
Over 10,000 tracking mirrors, called heliostats, reside in a mechanical solar collection field where they follow the sun throughout the day and reflect and concentrate sunlight onto a large heat exchanger called a receiver that sits atop a central tower. Within the receiver, fluid flows through the piping that forms the external walls. This fluid absorbs the heat from the concentrated sunlight. In SolarReserve’s technology, the fluid utilised is molten salt, which is heated from 550 ⁰F (288 ⁰C) to 1050 ⁰F (566 ⁰C). Molten salt is an ideal heat capture medium, as it maintains its liquid state even above 1050 ⁰F, allowing the system to operate at low pressure for efficient and safe energy capture and storage.
After passing through the receiver, the high temperature molten salt flows down the piping inside the tower and into an insulated thermal storage tank, where the energy is stored as high-temperature molten salt until electricity is needed. Heat loss is only 1 ⁰F per day.
SolarReserve’s technology leverages liquid molten salt as both the energy collection and the storage mechanism, which allows it to separate energy collection from electricity generation. When electricity is required, day or night, the high temperature molten salt is passed through a steam generation system, which in turn is used to drive a conventional power turbine, which generates electricity. Once the hot salt is used to create steam, the cooled molten salt is then piped back into the cold salt storage tank where it will then flow back up the receiver to be reheated as the process continues.
The steam generation process is identical to the process used in conventional gas, coal or nuclear power plants, except that it is 100 percent renewable, with zero harmful emissions or waste. SolarReserve plants provide on-demand, reliable electricity from a renewable source—the sun—even after dark.
THE JASPER PROJECT.
Based in Kimberly, South Africa and with a gross capacity of 96MW of power, The Jasper Solar Power Project produces 180,000 MWH of energy every year, which is enough to power approximately 80,000 homes; located adjacent to the Lesedi Power Project and also adjacent to SolarReserve’s Redstone CSP Tower project with integrated storage.
Kevin reveals that the project includes over 325,000 individual solar panels positioned on fixed tilt, ground mounted arrays spread across 358 acres and commenced construction in October 2013 and was fully commercially operational one year later.
Involvement of some major companies, including some from South Africa and major players from Spain and China, has made this a particularly exciting project and the fact that it is Google’s first renewable energy investment in South Africa is another one for the books.
The $260 million Jasper Power Project was awarded under the South Africa Renewable Energy and Power Producer Procurement Programme and the project has a 20-year power purchase agreement with National Utility Eskom. During its 20-year plus operating life, the project will expand in excess of 2 billion Rand (120 million Euro) on operations and maintenance costs with 45% of the value being local content spend. In additional to stimulating long-term economic development and creating new jobs, Jasper is now playing its part in helping South Africa meet its renewable energy target.
TO REALLY HAMMER THE POINT HOME
There are a number of benefits to this project such as clean, zero-emission solar energy in South Africa helping the country achieve its renewable energy targets on the ongoing mission to move away from coal and oil. It has also created substantial direct and indirect employment.
Through preferred procurement agreements, 45% of the total project is local content spend with 60% of that coming from BBBEE providers.
It was 2011 when SolarReserve joined with local empowered infrastructure investors and local developers in the country to market and develop a large-scale photovoltaic solar energy project. Now it stands as a bridge for the renewable sector into South Africa over which many new ideas and opportunities will cross ushering the country into a new era of sustainability and diversity.
“Long-term planning,” Kevin concludes, “That is what is needed.”