POWER SUPPLY: Readying For Solar Power Plants
Recent Western Cape Business News
ESKOM is assessing the feasibility of constructing a concentrating solar power plant rated at around 100MW in the Northern Cape Province. This facility will utilize the energy from the sun as its fuel source. This is but one of the more important developments unfolding in South Africa in the quest to harness solar power on a large scale.
One company in particular who is paying close attention to these developments is SAMSON Controls which is based in Montague Gardens. This company has been operating in South Africa for more than 27 years, initially under the banner of Samson Controls. According to its CEO Jochen Gräff, the company is particularly well placed to serve in the needs of solar thermal power generation.
“The company with its sophisticated control valves is the perfect answer to the demanding process requirements,” according to SAMSON’s German managing director. “Also, the company has already been extensively involved in similar projects in other countries and that we therefore already have the necessary expertise,” he says.
As a specialist in control valves SAMSON has already built up an excellent reputation in important local industrial sectors such as food and beverages, chemicals and in oil and gas. Now it targets the solar industry, especially the needs required by the solar thermal power technology. The key in the process is to control high pressures and high temperatures. This is how the process works: concentrating solar energy in combination with various storage methods is the most commonly used technique to generate solar power. Parabolic shaped mirrors concentrate the sunlight on solar collector tubes and heat the thermal oil to temperatures of approximately 400°C. To produce electricity, the hot fluid transfers its heat energy to water, creating steam. This steam is then used to run conventional steam turbines.
When the sun’s rays are at their strongest, the large collector fields store excess energy to be used during times of lower energy collection. This energy storage system consists of collector tubes, hot oil systems, molten salt storage tanks, and the associated heat exchangers. The molten salt tanks are heated by the excess energy from the hot oil collector tubes. These tanks are kept at different temperatures and their contents are pumped back and forth through a large heat exchanger, depending on whether the system is being charged (excess solar energy to storage tanks) or discharged (stored energy from tanks to hot oil system).
And this is where the SAMSON valves come into play. With its sophisticated control valves, SAMSON provides the perfect answer to the special process requirements that cannot be met by standard valve types. SAMSON’s control valves are equipped with special components and accessories to satisfy the challenging requirements for high performance applications needed in solar thermal plants. It is dedicated to offering valves that are tailored to suit the specific requirements of special applications.
SAMSON has got a wide product base and is also the main vendor and partner for such well-known names as Leusch, Pfeiffer, Samsomatic, Air Torque, Starline and Vetec. Eskom’s requirements for its proposed concentrating solar power plant are for a molten-salt type, central receiver technology. This technology is based on the concept of thousands of large, two axes tracking mirrors (known as heliostats) which track the sun and reflect the beam radiation onto a common focal point. This focal point (the receiver) is located on a tower well above the heliostat field in order to prevent interference between the reflected radiation and the other heliostats.
This is different from SAMSON’s technology, but the company believes that with a few modifications, which could easily be implemented, it has a compelling model as a solution for the Northern Cape Province project.
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