Eskom tests market interest for 100 MW solar power-tower project

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State-owned power utility Eskom has issued a request for information (RFI) to test supplier-market interest for the design, supply and installation of the 100 MW concentrating solar power (CSP) plant it is planning to construct near Upington, in the Northern Cape, by 2016.

The RFI documentation was released on April 1 and potential suppliers and contractors had until May 8 to register their interest.

The coal-heavy utility, which is also pursuing a 100 MW wind-farm development in the Western Cape, aims to build a central-receiver CSP plant, also know as a power tower, in a bid to demonstrate the technology. The facility would include molten salt as a storage and heat transfer medium and could form the basis of a future plan to deploy a fleet of such power plants domestically.

Eskom had already secured some funding for the initiative from the World Bank’s International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Clean Technology Fund, as well as the African Development Bank. It was also in discussions with development banks from France and Germany, as well as with the European Investment Bank, with the intention to source the balance of the debt funding for the project.

The RFI would test the supplier market ahead of the release of a formal engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) tender and the award of a contract for the period 2013 to 2016.

Eskom indicated a preference for procuring the ‘solar island’ and the ‘power plant’ from a single supplier, but would source miscellaneous items from various suppliers.

The successful bidder would also to be expected to promote local manufacture in line with Eskom’s procurement rules and government’s industrial policy.

The construction and erection of the transmission or distribution lines and substations required for grid connection would not be included in the EPC contractor’s scope of work. But the main contractor would be expected to operate the plant with Eskom for a period of 18 months to address guarantee issues and for effective transfer of skills.

The World Bank’s two-stage bidding process would be followed, allowing for unpriced technical proposals to be followed up by an invitation to submit final technical proposals and price bids.

The utility also intended to contract with an ‘owners engineer’ to assist it initially with the business case, basic engineering and with preparation of bidding documentation. This entity would also be expected to act as an execution partner.

The RFI submissions should be delivered to Eskom’s ‘tender box’ at its Megawatt Park head office, in Johannesburg, by 10:00 on Thursday, May 8.

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