• At the Kathu solar-thermal plant in South Africa, ACCIONA, together with its partner Sener, has developed a project to recycle and reuse the majority of the waste generated by the plant’s construction. 

At the Kathu solar-thermal plant in South Africa, ACCIONA, together with its partner Sener, has developed a project to recycle and reuse the majority of the waste generated by the plant’s construction. This means that the environmental benefits of a solar-thermal power plant that will generate clean energy are supplemented by the benefits from responsibly managing waste that would otherwise end up in landfill.

For ACCIONA, sustainability is an integral concept that must be present in all of its activities. Every project must therefore be accompanied by its corresponding plans so that the environmental impact of the works is as positive as possible. Consequently, initiatives that are inherently environmentally-friendly, such as renewable energy plants, see their impact further increased by supplementary measures such as recycling or even social actions. The 100 MW solar-thermal plant that ACCIONA has constructed in the South Africa’s Northern Cape province, in the town of Kathu, as part of a consortium with Sener, is a prime example of this integral commitment to the physical and human ecosystem.

The positive environmental effects of this power station are evident and can be summed up in figures – it will prevent the emission of six million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere and 44,000 tons of sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxides. Furthermore, it is estimated that it will save eight million cubic metres of water during its two decades in operation. Similarly, the beneficial social repercussions can also be quantified in terms of the number of households that will be supplied with clean energy (more than 180,000); the number of jobs created (5,131); or the effects on the South African economy, which will be boosted by an estimated €284 million. In the case of Kathu, more than 113,000 people in the region have benefited from the social initiatives promoted by the consortium led by ACCIONA alongside Sener, such as furniture for primary schools, study grants for young people, early childhood development projects, etc.


In addition to all these measures are actions that seek to reduce the plant’s carbon footprint by applying recycling processes to the waste generated by its construction. The goal is to reuse the highest possible percentage of this waste. For example, the remains of the concrete used to construct the complex have been used to create blocks that have been utilised to construct offices. Similarly, the clay that was extracted was used to construct the foundations for the salt tank; the packaging foam was given to a community centre; and the remains of the insulation used to protect the pipes were recycled to produce valve covers.

Special mention should also be made of the process to reuse the wood originally used for packaging. One part of this was given to a local training centre where students learn to make furniture, while the remainder was used to make benches and furniture for the offices of a local school. Naturally, all recyclable materials were segregated and reused, such as oil, paper, cardboard, plastics, drinks cans or the steel, copper and aluminium offcuts.

To date, some 5,200 tons of waste have been recycled, which represents more than 91% of all waste materials produced during the construction phase. Of these, more than 3,000 tons are concrete, 758 tons are wood, 638 tons are steel and more than 20 tons are plastic. All of this has been achieved with the participation of a local firm, which has created 12 permanent jobs.

And herein lie the keys to ACCIONA’s commitment to sustainability, with the most modern technology to generate clean energy; responsibly and efficiently minimising the carbon footprint of all its activities; and a commitment to develop local communities.