FG Emvelo, ABB power into South African CSP

Florian Fritsch, managing director of FG Emvelo and Pancho Ndebele, Chairman of SASTELA & CEO of

Interview by Rikki Stancich

Earlier this month ABB and Novatec Solar signed an agreement with independent solar power developer FG Emvelo to build concentrating solar power (CSP) plants at Karoshoek Solar Valley in Northern Cape province, South Africa.

German-African utility FG Emvelo was wooed by Novatec Solar’s solar boiler for direct steam generation based on innovative linear Fresnel technology. The collectors use flat glass mirrors to reflect solar energy onto a receiver in which water is vaporized to produce superheated steam at temperatures of 500 degrees Celsius, making it a highly efficient alternative solar thermal option.

Novatec Solar’s direct steam technology has achieved a very competitive LCOE via automated mass production of key components in local production facilities, a fast and accurate assembly process, highly efficient land use, and a robotic cleaning system that uses very little water.

CSP Today contacts Florian Fritsch, managing director of FG Emvelo and Pancho Ndebele, Chairman of SASTELA & CEO of Emvelo, to learn more about the proposed projects and South Africa’s CSP market potential. 

CSP Today: What size of plant, and how many, are envisaged for Karoshoek Solar Valley?

Florian Fritsch: FG Emvelo plans to establish a number of 50 to 100 MW size CSP plants with its partners at the proposed 1 GW Karoshoek Solar Valley, located 30 km east of Upington.

The Karoshoek site already has the Ilanga 100 MW trough plant that is at an advanced stage of development. With the ABB / Novatec partnership Karoshoek will have a second plant, the first one of several planned plants of up to 100 MW, which will be developed using Novatec’s Linear Fresnel technology.

CSP Today: Who will be the likely off-taker?

Pancho Ndebele: In South Africa we are participating in the official IPP REBID program which also provides a PPA for those projects that are awarded the preferred bidder status via a competitive bidding process.

We are also looking at other potential offtakers such as the energy intensive industry sectors like mining.

CSP Today: What is the estimated LCOE of power produced by a plant using Novatec Solar's linear Fresnel technology?

Florian Fritsch: As FG Emvelo acts as an IPP and competes with other IPPs in a competitive bidding process that has a price cap, we cannot divulge our bid price for this technology or any other technology that we choose to deploy at Karoshoek.

We are confident that we will be able to submit competitive bids for our projects and in the process ensure that CSP’s value proposition is recognised and rewarded by the South African authorities.

CSP Today: What are the main supply chain challenges confronting CSP developers in South Africa?

Pancho Ndebele: The main challenge for the supply chain at present is the lack of a clear long-term view of the market demand so that suppliers can put up local manufacturing facilities. We at FG Emvelo and other stakeholders believe that the supply chain challenges can be addressed by moving the 1 GW allocated to CSP in the IRP 2010 to be deployed by 2020 instead of 2025.

Such an approach will trigger the establishment of a competitive local supply chain capable of meeting the localisation targets that have been set by the Department of Trade and Industry. With partners like ABB-Novatec,we have the possibility to build up bigger local manufacturing facilities which ensure, that a lot of the work needed can be done by local employers.

CSP Today: In terms of policy frameworks, how does South Africa compare with other potential CSP markets at this point in time?

Florian Fritsch: South Africa is a unique country and as such has come up with its own Renewable Energy Bidding program that is referred to by many as “REBID”.

This new way of introducing renewables can lead to a sustained deployment of renewables and will challenge all of us in the renewable energy sector including technology providers to drive costs down so that we can reach grid parity sooner.

This would lead to more megawatts being allocated to CSP in the not too distant future because of the technology’s value proposition, dispachability, localisation potential and job creation.

To respond to this article, please write to the Editor:

Rikki Stancich: rstancich@gmail.com