A thermal solar power plant in South Africa has set a new record for continuous round-the-clock electricity production.

The 50 MW Bokpoort CSP plant is in its first month of commercial operation and has been able to produce electricity for a continuous period of 161 hours, equivalent to almost six days.

It was able to set the African record because of its molten salt energy storage facility that can accumulate 9.3 hours of solar electricity production, say Sener, Acciona and TSK, the companies that built it.

The ability to generate electricity round-the-clock is a milestone for CSP technology as it paves the way for CSP to operate in a similar way to conventional power generation technologies.

"Globally the biggest challenge of CSP has been its ability to produce energy consistently long after sunset," said Nandu Bhula, CEO of Bokpoort CSP plant, which is owned and operated by ACWA Power. "The performance of this plant is a clear indication that CSP technology can be used as a base-load capacity option in the same way as conventional power plants."

In South Africa the country’s daily evening peak demand is from 5 pm to 9 pm and the newly introduced CSP peak tariff means that developers are encouraged to have thermal storage capacity.