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World leading South African 75MW PV plant to use Swiss solar control systems

ABB to supply electrical and automation tech for SA project set to be one of world’s largest single-axis photovoltaic power plants

ABB will supply electrical and automation control systems for the 75MW plant in the Northern Cape province of South Africa

Swiss solar control systems are being used to develop a world leading 75MW PV plant in South Africa. The technology from global firm ABB, which has headquarters in Switzerland, is for what will be one of the world's largest single-axis photovoltaic power plants when it begins operating next year.

In a USD 25m deal, ABB will supply electrical and automation control systems for the Kathu PV power plant in the Northern Cape province of South Africa. The 75MW plant is among the first tranche of projects to be awarded as part of South Africa's renewable energy program, which aims to diversify the country's energy mix and reduce its carbon footprint. Once completed in 2014, it is expected to be one of the world's largest PV power plants with a single-axis tracking system.

The plant will have the capacity to generate around 146GWh of clean solar power to feed into the national grid – enough to meet the needs of over 40,000 people based on average national per capita consumption, and displacing the equivalent of about 50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

Brice Koch, head of ABB's Power Systems division, said: "Renewable energy sources such as solar have a key role to play in meeting the growing demand for electricity while minimising environmental impact. We have a strong track record in delivering turnkey power and automation solutions that are optimising photovoltaic power plants all over the world."

Maximising PV output

The plant is located in the Kalahari Desert close to the town of Kathu and to Sishen, one of the largest open-pit iron ore mines in the world. WBHO, a leading South African construction company, and Building Energy, an Italian renewable energy developer and operator are plant owner.

ABB's turnkey electrical and automation solution will optimise the performance of the Kathu plant to maximise output while ensuring reliability in remote and demanding operating conditions. The solution includes a range of ABB power products such as medium-and low-voltage switchgear, distribution transformers, and control and protection devices. It also incorporates distributed automation and control products from the Symphony Plus family. ABB will be responsible for the design, engineering, supply, installation and commissioning of the project.

Key features of the ABB solution include the integration of the plant's electrical equipment and high-voltage substation with the company's proprietary Symphony Plus Distributed Control System (DCS) solution. This is in conformance with the IEC 61850 open-communication standard for substation automation.

ABB will also supply an advanced tracking system with a back-tracking algorithm that optimises tracker movement and eliminates shadow on the panels. The solution also features a data-collection system that collects operational input from the trackers, inverters, string boxes and substation to enable remote operation and maintenance. This aims to alleviate the need for onsite manning.

The news from ABB follows other examples of the company developing its PV technology for the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) countries this year. This includes expanding solar inverter production in India in March 2013 and targeting BRIC counties with its latest inverters for large-scale PV power plants in April.