Solar Capital De Aar's second phase switched on
South African Energy Minister, Ms Tina Joemat-Pettersson, inaugurated the 175MW Solar Capital facility located in De Aar in the Northern Cape, making it the largest solar farm completed to date in the Southern Hemisphere, Africa and the Middle East region.
The launch of the facility is the culmination of a two-phase project. The first phase has a capacity of 85MW and the second phase an even larger capacity of 90MW. In total the facility is 473ha, consists of 503 942 modules and took a mere 28 months to construct.
According to Joematt-Pettersson, sub-Saharan Africa has seen tremendous economic growth and its energy consumption has risen by 45% since 2000. “Many governments are now intensifying their efforts to tackle the numerous regulatory and political barriers that are holding back investment in domestic energy supply, and inadequate energy infrastructure puts a brake on urgently needed improvements in living standards.”
The Department of Energy (DoE) has worked hard to solve the energy shortage in South Africa through its Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement (REIPPP) Programme. This programme allows for foreign investment in renewable energy farms, and has enabled the establishment of various renewable energy facilities which assist in providing the grid with electricity, such as Solar Capital De Aar’s 175MW farm.
Paschal Phelan, Chairman of Solar Capital, says that the launch of the facility is an important example of how solar power can assist in solving the current energy crisis in South Africa. “The Northern Cape of South Africa has some of the highest irradiation levels in the world, with the location of this facility boasting 2168kWh/m². This allows the abundant sunlight in the region to be converted into green energy to be transferred to the national energy grid.”
Phelan explains that South Africa as a whole will benefit from the facility, as all power generated from the project will be exported into the national electricity grid. “The electricity produced will be able to power approximately 75 000 South African homes every year.”
He adds that, with the introduction of lithium batteries in the near future, power will not only be transferred during the day, but can also be provided at night when it is most needed.
Solar Capital has also invested in long-term economic development in and around De Aar. Phelan points out that the De Aar project has had positive economic effects in the local area. The facility employed over 2,000 local people at peak and currently employs approximately 100 people for operations and maintenance.
He says that by the end of 2016 more than R24 million will be spent on economic development in projects such as as a community leaders development programme, free Wi-Fi for the town of De Aar, a large community training centre that houses a computer training laboratory and an arts training and exhibition centre.
“The launch of the solar farm is not only a success in its own right, but also allows for the opportunity to spread the message of solar success. It has no mechanical parts, ithasminimal operation costs, no emissions, no water usage and it is safe. It needs to be a priority in South Africa that we continue the investment in this source of abundantly free, green, sustainable energy,” concludes Phelan.