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NC solar project launches new era for power provision

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The project will provide over 28 million kWh of clean electricity annually.

A 10MW solar plant situated between Kathu and Hotazel is expected to produce 28 million kWh of electricity per annum. Picture: Supplied

A TEN-megawatt solar plant in the Northern Cape has reached commercial operation three months ahead of schedule, providing clean energy to Amazon Web Services via the Eskom grid in a new model of private energy procurement called energy wheeling.

The plant is situated between Kathu and Hotazel.

The project, developed by the Sola Group, will provide over 28 million kWh of clean electricity annually.

CEO of the Sola group, Dom Wills said that this was the first operational large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) wheeling project in South Africa.

“During construction, the plant created 167 jobs, where 63 percent of the workforce was recruited from the local surrounding area. The project will sustain permanent jobs for its lifetime in electrical maintenance, cleaning and security. Wooden waste generated during construction, including pallets and electrical cable drums, were donated to local furniture businesses and special skills schools, in order to further bolster the SMME contributions of the project.”

Wills stated that the plant represents the technology cutting-edge in renewable energy design.

“The single axis tracking plant consists of over 24,000 bi-facial solar modules covering an area of 20 hectares in the Northern Cape, where the solar resource is one of the best in the world. The solar PV facility tracks the sun throughout the day and absorbs irradiance from both the sky and reflected light from the ground, making it more efficient. The plant design will see over 25,000 tons of carbon emissions being avoided annually – the equivalent of taking 5,400 cars off of the road for a year.”

He added that the model uses the Eskom grid to connect private buyers and sellers together.

“It’s the first step forward in creating grid independence where private buyers and sellers of energy can trade with each other.

“Wheeling is a financial transaction that allows power to be produced in one location and billed to an energy user in another region. The plant will provide a low-carbon alternative to coal-fired power without needing to be geographically located at the site of use. This model could also help South Africa significantly in sticking to its carbon emission reductions targets, which are at the forefront of discussion ahead of the COP26 climate change in Glasgow next week.”

Wills stated that the launch of the solar plant symbolised the positive stance taken recently by the Department of Minerals and Energy, Nersa and Eskom towards renewable energy generation.

“This has great potential to solve South Africa’s energy crisis and reduce electricity costs. Power generated from wheeling projects will increase the amount of independent power producers and relieve the sole electricity provision burden on Eskom.”

Meanwhile, Eskom will be extending load shedding on Stage 2 for the rest of the week.

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