Load-shedded South Africans have a reason to be happy: Cleantechnica has reported that a new solar power plant has come online with the capacity to deliver 100MW of power to the South African grid.

While 100MW doesn’t sound like a lot, at this stage any additional power is most welcome as our local grid is still “constrained and vulnerable”, according to Eskom’s latest tweet.

The KaXu Solar One (KXSO) project is South Africa’s first concentrated solar thermal power plant (CSP), which uses parabolic mirrors to focus sunlight on a trough of liquid, which is heated to drive a generator. KaXu is located in the Northern Cape just northeast of Pofadder and covers an area of 1 100 hectares, with over 800 000 square metres of collector surfaces.

In addition to direct electricity generation, KaXu also stores enough energy as molten salts to provide 100MW of power for 2.5 hours without direct sunlight.

This is in addition to the good news that Medupi’s unit six finally came online this week. An official Eskom press release has quoted Eskom’s CEO Tshediso Matona as saying “Within the next three months, South Africa will see Medupi unit six’s full potential of 794MW being fed into the South African national grid”.

Medupi’s full capacity of 4 764MW is only expected to be online in 2019 at the earliest, according to the Mail & Guardian.

KXSO’s construction took 27 months, and is jointly owned by Spanish company Abengoa, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and the KaXu Community Trust.

Another solar power plant is currently being built right next to it, also with 100MW of total generation capacity, this one owned entirely by Abengoa and with a scheduled commission date of 2017.

So while SA’s electricity crisis definitely isn’t over yet, we appear to at least be on a path towards overcoming it with these and other projects coming online in the next few years. Just don’t chuck out your loadshedding survival kits quite yet.

[Source – Cleantechnica, Image – IDC]

Story updated 7th March to correct technical description of the generator type (see comments below)

Deon got his first taste of PC gaming at the tender age of 11 when his father bought an 8088 XT, ostensibly to "help him with his homework". Instead, it introduced him to Leisure Suit Larry, King Graham, Sonny Bonds and many more, and Deon has been a PC gamer and hardware enthusiast ever since. He landed his first professional writing gig in 2006 at a prestigious local PC magazine, a very happy happenstance as he got to write for a living about things he loves - tech, PCs, gaming, and everything in between. He's been writing about it all ever since, and loves every minute of it.