Solar Energy Programme

Solar Energy Technology Roadmap (SETRM)

SANEDI, specifically the Clean Energy Solutions Programme (including RECORD) team,  and its GIZ partner have been involved in the core and full project steering committees of this initiave from project outset. This project aims at developing the Solar industry to 2050 - "South Africa has the potential to be a centre of excellence of solar development and utilisation," says Michael Sudarkasa project manager of the Solar Energy Technology Roadmap (SETRM). The purpose of the SETRM is to assist in realising this potential by developing a long term solar sector strategy to 2050 explains Sudarkasa.

There are a number of issues driving the need to develop the solar industry in South Africa says Sudarkasa. In particular, development of the solar sector can help to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions associated with energy production and at the same time contribute to longer term energy security. The sector also has the potential to contribute to the creation of Green Jobs. In addition since Solar Photovoltaic and Solar Water heating applications can be rolled out to households independently of the grid, solar technologies can be used to reduce demand on the grid in cities. These applications can also contribute to meeting rural energy needs where many households are not grid connected.

SETRM has recently completed a draft Road Map that focusses on four specific areas:
  1. Concentrated Solar Power (CSP)
  2. Solar Photovoltaic (PV)
  3. Solar Thermal (heating and cooling)
  4. Research and Development into Hybrid Technologies and Solar Fuels

The draft Road Map currently estimates that 40GW of Solar Photovoltaic and Concentrated Solar Power can be developed by 2050 in South Africa. During the same time period it estimates that an additional 4GW of Solar Water Heating can be installed in South Africa.

SETRM convened a Solar Week during October 2013, hosted by DST and SANEDI/RECORD, to consult with key stakeholders regarding the content of the draft Road Map. Over the following months the Road Map was refined based on stakeholder input and aligned with the Integrated Energy Plan (IEP) that is currently being developed by the Department of Energy. During 2014 SETRM expects to finalise the Road Map and then undertake a road show to introduce the plan to key stakeholders says Sudarkasa.

SETRM is an initiative of the Department of Energy, of which SANEDI is an implementing agency, and the Department of Science and Technology. Technical support for the project has been provided by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and funding support has been provided by the German development agency (GIZ), through the South African – German Energy Program (SAGEN). In order to develop the Road Map, SETRM has involved a wide range of industry stakeholders in the drafting process.

More information is available on the SETRM Website here and interested stakeholders can also sign up for regular updates on the initiative.

Concept for a Centre for Solar Technology, Development and Innovation (CSTDI)

Since the inception and eventual development and launch, RECORD has been working towards the concept of developing a centre where solar energy technology and expertise can develop skills, test technologies, conduct research and innovation.  As a result of government's progresive programme to implement renewable energy in South Africa, there is renewed interest in this sector as part of diversifying the energy mix in the country. This is evidenced by current renewable energy targets in the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) of 2010, the draft IRP of 2014, the feasibility study for the Solar Park project and the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme. In South Africa, there are a number of commercial-scale solar power projects currently, ranging from PV to CSP. South Africa has an opportunity to not only lead in harnessing of the solar resource, but also to be a leader in development of new solar technologies. One way to turn the solar natural resource into economic leadership is to position South Africa as a technology leader. To achieve this, a Centre for Solar Technology Development and Innovation (CSTDI) was proposed. This centre would test and pilot solar technologies, co-ordinate solar technology development, demonstration and innovation activities of South African higher education institutions. RECORD has been working towards the goals outlined below and is currently making strides as one of a consortium (some of which it was instrumental in bringing together) towards a collaborative approach to make a solar centre of excellence a reality.

Pre-feasibility Rationale
Prior to commitment of resources (personnel, equipment, etc) for the CSTDI, it is important that a pre-feasibility study and evaluation be done in order to identify possible needs for the concept of this solar centre and fully understand the value being proposed.
The objectives of the pre-feasibility study were to understand the following:
  • Stakeholder expectations/needs;
  • Viability of establishing the proposed centre;
  • Potential technology innovation opportunities;
  • Potential human capacity development opportunity;
  • Possible business case for the centre;
  • Possible capital and operational costs of the centre
  • Possible operational Plan for the centre

Originally proposed phases
Phase 0: Concretising concept, initial costing and preparatory work concluded
Phase 1: Technology development through special calls
  • Funding will be provided through a call for proposals from consortiums which can focus on specific technical developments
  • Support existing initiatives
Phase 2: Proof of concept
  • Mini plant built
Phase 3: Fully fledged centre
  • Linked to the solar park initiative

Pre-feasibility Study Plan
The planned approach to this prefesibility was first, to develop a concept document including a project and business plan. This was achieved in early 2012 in collaboration with the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). The steps that followed were designed to assess the feasibility of creating such a centre in South Africa and the best way in which to implement such. These included a visit to similar international centres and engagement with international stakeholders and possible collaborative parties. This was to gain understanding of what the CSTDI would be able to achieve and how it could be implemented.

The expected output from this study was a fact based assessment of the value proposition for the centre. After extensive local and international discussions regarding the CSTDI and the internationaal tour of such facilities, the following conclusions were reached:
  1. The financial implications of building the CSTDI as a single facility where all solar research, development, innovation and some training could be done far exceed the resources that could be made available to realise the concept. This financing would have to come directly from government and is not currently in the budget.
  2. Site selection for the CSTDI would be problematic, since it would have to be taken into account that the best solar resource, in the Northern Cape, is far removed from already established institutes with start up expertise and infrasturcure. This would require much in put into: Purchasing and and constructing buildings; Purchasing or building relevant equipment; Attracting the best expertise to move to the area where the centre would be built; Attracting and enabling research and support staff and students/trainees; Accomodation and ammenities for said persons
  3. Given the above hinderences, institutes that already have solar expertise and equipment would probably not deem it financially viable to move to the CSTDI. Thus leading to much duplication and lack of coordiation in the solar research development and innovation sector for South Africa could result.

After careful consideration it is recommended that since South Africa already has pockets of excellence in solar energy at various insitutes, why not adopt a decentralised approach to the CSTDI concept? Each institute that specialises a particular area of expertise could be considered to be a node of the CSTDI. This could be kick started by exploring the past renewable energy hub and spoke model, now coordinated by the National Research Foundation (NRF). Thus, for example, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) that formed the photovoltaic (PV) spoke could become a PV node to the CSTDI; the Universiy of Stellenbosch could become one of the concentrated solar power (CSP) nodes in partnership with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). This would also allow for a more sustainable funding model for the CSTDI that would not require massive government financial support.

Many of these possible nodes already have training, equipment and experts in place. The CSTDI would be able to boost each node individually according to its technology needs. It would also possibly be easier to attain comparitively small amounts for funding to achieve this, rather than spending money to build a centre that, in some cases, would duplicate work already being done.

To some end the CSTDI noded model has already begun to naturally form though solar research and development coordination. The CSIR and Stellenbosch university have drafted an agreement that allows them to dovetails their CSP research and work together towards innovation and devlopment in this area. The NMMU has been awarded a project that substatially boosts their capacity to work with PV yeild and cell effect under South African conditions. In conclusion, although there has not yet been a full feasibility study for the CSTDI noded approach, the concept seems to be naturally evolving to the best advantage.

PV Testing Lab NMMU

The Centre for Energy Research (CER) based at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) is currently funded by RECORD, in partnership with the German International Co-operation Agency (GIZ), for project specific capital equipment and operational expenses. This renewable energy project is aimed at research and development in two main focal areas:
  1. Novel characterisation of photovoltaic (PV) materials, cell and modules, understanding their failure and means to mitigate failure or improve solar energy capture
  2. Energy yield studies in monitoring performance and analysis of selected experimental PV modules
CER established at NMMU has been involved in renewable energy research for many years, it focuses on providing technology support specifically in the following areas:
  1. Testing and verification of component specifications (e.g. PV module or solar thermal systems)
  2. Development of testing techniques
  3. Product development - prototype development and testing
  4. Skills development
While  CER is supporting a number of industries in the Eastern Cape region and nationally, it also plays a role in creating awareness and developing human capacity to support industry in the long term. In addition to PV cell, module and system characterisation,  CER has worked on concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) technology development and energy storage. Through their experience in PV cell, module and system characterisation, CPV technology, and system integration, CER is well placed to conduct the proposed project and develop human capital in this sector.

The Project
There are two focal areas to the project funded by RECORD and GIZ:
  1. Photovoltaic (PV) characterization
  2. Energy Yield and Performance Monitoring
Each focus area contains components of technical activity, capital equipment installation and testing and human capacity development, both areas share the same equipment and overall goals.

PV materials, device, module and systems characterisation
Developing characterisation techniques is particularly important in understanding a technology and, in this case, contributing to the PV technology knowledge-base in South Africa, since this technology will be rolled out at high levels in the country. The research includes:
  • a better understanding of performance limiting degradation and failure modes in PV devices
  • causes of premature failure in PV cells, complete modules and systems
  • root causes of non-functioning areas in newly manufactured PV cell material
  • effects of various types of cell damage, be it before or after long-term outdoor exposure, on the degradation rate and failure of PV cells and modules
  • determination of the natural long-term degradation rate of normally functioning PV modules
These research activities have two main goals that will help to drive the PV industry forward:
  • adding to the existing knowledge base in PV devices
  • training of students to become future PV experts that may enter the PV industry or will continue with the development of new improved technologies
The scope of the research includes the following standard and non-standard characterisation techniques:
  • Current-voltage (I-V) characterization (indoor and outdoor).
  • Device parameter extraction.
  • Spatial imaging techniques: Electroluminescence (EL), Photoluminescence (PL) and infrared (IR) thermography,
  • Various Light Beam Induced Current (LBIC) measurement systems: High Resolution (HRLBIC), Large Area (LA-LBIC), Solar (S-LBIC) systems incorporating point-by-point I-V, spectral and Raman spectroscopy.
  • Systems characterization: Solar Home Systems for remote and rural applications, off-grid kW-scale systems and grid-integrated systems.

PV technology energy yield studies
The South African renewable energy industry, through the Renewable Energy Power Procurement Programme (REBID) of the Department of Energy, has pledged construction of several large utility-scale PV installations nationally. To support this industry and develop South African expertise, a sound knowledge base is required. In addition to human capital development associated with the characterisation related portion of this project, further expertise in PV technology energy yield on gridintegrated PV systems is needed. The emphasis of this research is the measurement and modelling of energy yield from PV systems comprising different solar cell technologies. These systems are installed at various locations representative of different climatic regimes in South Africa. All PV systems are monitored, and appropriate meteorological and performance data collected. From this data actual energy yield is determined and correlated with modelled energy yield. This adds value to the knowledge base by answering questions relating to the energy yield of different PV technologies, viz.:
  • suitability of different PV technologies for different environmental conditions
  • operational and environmental limitations of different PV technologies
  • total energy yield range from different PV technology types
  • total cost of energy production over the lifetime of these different technology types
The main goals of this research focus are to:
• add to the existing knowledge base by verifying energy yield from different PV technologies under different environmental and solar radiation regimes
• determine the suitability of different PV technologies for deployment in different environmental and solar radiation regimes
The parameters listed below are monitored and analysed throughout the duration of this project, and data is collated:
  • voltage of PV array
  • AC current and voltage injected into the utility grid
  • Plane-of-array irradiance
  • Back-of-module temperature
  • Ambient temperature and other meteorological parameters
This research will add to the PV knowledge base in South Africa and energy yield data will be useful for utility-scale PV system integrators.

Solar Medium to High Temperature Applications

SANEDI/RECORD has an interest in solar medium to high temperature applications.  To this end numberous consultations and stakeholder engagements have been held and are ongoing, examining possible appliations of technologies and the benfits thereof to South Africa in the medium to long term. Below is a "fact sheet" outlining what areas could be considered moving forward.

What is the opportunity?
  • South Africa has abundant solar resources
  • South Africa is dependent on fossil based energy sources
  • South Africa has committed to specific emission targets
  • South Africa is implementing a carbon tax in 2015
  • South Africa is exploring the solar opportunity through the SETRM process
  • While renewables are being introduced to make a low-carbon/no-carbon contribution to the electricity grid through the REIPPPP, no similar incentives exist for low-carbon/no-carbon liquid fuels, which contribute equivalently to the emission burden
  • The International Energy Agency SolarPACES Implementing Agreement has targeted South Africa and Australia specifically for Solar Fuels introduction into the market, and has set aside a budget to assist
  • South Africa spends 75% of its entire energy spend on liquid fuels balance of payments to foreign suppliers
  • South Africa can become a world leader on high temperature solar applications

What is the potential solution?

  • Use of heat from concentrating solar to drive endothermic reactions in industrial and petrochemical processes, avoiding the combustion of fossil feedstocks to drive these reactions: steam reforming of methane; dry (CO2) reforming of methane; steam gasification of carbonaceous solid feedstocks
  • Temporary sequestering of CO2 in dry reforming of methane to produce synthesis gas to make aviation fuel by Fischer-Tropsch synthesis
  • Water splitting through solar high temperature steam electrolysis and solar thermochemical cycles

What is the global state of the art?
  • Solar steam reforming of methane has been demonstrated at: 200kW level in a tubular reactor, 400kW level in a volumetric reactor
  • Solar steam gasification of carbonaceous solid feedstocks has been performed at: 500kW level for petroleum coke, 1MW level for biomass, 200kW level for - low rank coal, industrial sludge, sewage sludge, tyre chips
  • Solar dry reforming of methane has been performed. Level is unknown, but unlikely to be above 10kW

What makes South Africa's situation different to the global examples?

  • Excellent solar resource: Gauteng equivalent to Spain (2,000kWh/m2/year), Northern Cape (2,800kWh/m2/year) rivalled only by Chile
  • Significant water stress: water availability is poor in good solar regions
  • South Africa has significant CO2 emissions
  • Potential carbon tax incentivises low-carbon approaches
  • Eskom already considering carbon capture approaches
  • Potential development of Shale Gas resources

What local knowledge gives South Africa advantage?
  • Fischer-Tropsch competence in industry (Sasol, PetroSA) and universities (Wits, UNW)
  • Competence in coal chemistry and gasification (NWU, WITS, CSIR)
  • Integration of high temperature heat sources into chemical processes
  • High temperature materials
  • Simulation and modelling expertise
  • Existing CSP knowledge

What is required to achieve this?

  • Feasibility studies to determine local potential and priorities, economic viability and potential for leap frogging through collaboration for:
  • Solar fuels – re-using CO2 to make aviation fuel
  • Solar calcination of CaCO3 to CaO for cement industry
  • Solar melting of aluminium
  • Solar water splitting to generate hydrogen (Integrate with HySA)
  • Solar gasification of coal
  • Feasibility study to define requirements for experimental facilities: lab-scale testing requires 10 kW solar furnace or 10 kW solar simulator (arc-xenon lamps), 100 kW testing requires heliostat field and tower facility
  • Development of detailed transient modelling capability: chemistry, heat transfer, thermohydraulics, optics/radiative transfer
  • SolarPACES Solar Fuels Road Mapping assistance

What is the benefit for government?
  • S&T resource development
  • Potential export products in high temperature solar application production facilities
  • Job creation
  • Optimum usage of fossil resources combined with solar
  • RSA positioned as a solar RD&I destination
  • Achievements of COPXX commitments

Potential for innovation/technology development
  • Catalyst development (probably Rhodium - PGM-based) for methane reforming
  • Thermal storage integration into solar chemistry process
  • Chemical receiver development
  • Solar regeneration of amine from CO2 capture & CO2 management
  • Solar aluminium rotary kiln

Solar DNI Measurement Project

SANEDI/RECORD is supporting the Renewable Energy Industry with the establishment of DNI solar measurement stations in South Africa.

Accurate decision-making for the deployment of solar energy projects is about to receive a boost with the launch of a unique project, set to fund eight high accuracy Direct Normal Irradiance (DNI) solar measurement stations in South Africa. The project, funded jointly by the Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and  the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) and implemented by the University of Stellenbosch, who will carry out solar measurements over a 12-month period at eight new solar measurement stations, then update an existing solar DNI map with the collected data, as well as other data that is available in the public domain, and ensure the publication of the map and measured data in the public domain.

The project addresses the general lack of high quality, ground measured solar data – especially data that is in the public domain because existing measurement stations usually collect Global Horizontal Irradiance (GHI) and sometimes also diffuse measurements, since this measuring equipment is more affordable and easier to maintain than equipment measuring DNI data. Although GHI and Diffuse measurements are important, it is DNI data that is sought after. DNI is the amount of solar radiation received per unit area by a surface that is always held perpendicular (or normal) to the rays that come in a straight line from the direction of the sun at its current position in the sky. DNI excludes the Diffuse component and only the direct (or beam) component. This quantity is of particular interest to concentrating solar thermal installations (since only the direct component of solar irradiance can be reflected or concentrated) and installations that track the position of the sun.

In South Africa there are currently only four DNI measurement stations at three locations with data in the public domain. Other entities such as the South African Weather Service, Eskom and private renewable energy project developers also operate solar measurement stations but these stations are either in a limited state of functionality, record mostly GHI data or most importantly, do not place their data in the public domain. However, with the advent of this partnership, Eskom has released some data to this project as well. Dispite this, there is a need to install, maintain and monitor high quality solar resource measurement stations to obtain ground-based measurements that may be compared with satellite derived data. The availability of these measurements will improve the accuracy of the currently available satellite derived data sets, with the overall objective, of course, being to increase the use of solar energy in South Africa stimulated by the availability of reliable solar data.

The project is supported in the framework of the South African German Energy Programme (SAGEN), implemented by GIZ. GIZ acknowledges that there a number of important public and private sector stakeholders that will be included in the implementation of the project viz. DST, SANEDI, SAWS, Eskom, with the aim to avoid duplication and attempt to have more measured data in the public domain.