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Operations under way for NC solar plant

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The 75 MW solar PV plant is expected to generate 180 000 MWh of much-needed green energy each year

There are 260 000 solar panels installed on the plant. Picture: Supplied

MATLA A Bokone Solar, situated just outside Kimberley, commenced its commercial operations earlier this year, having reached full grid code compliance.

Matla A Bokone Solar is owned by Old Mutual IDEAS Managed Fund, African Rainbow Energy and Power, Reatile Group, Phakwe Solar and Cicada Community Trust.

Over its 20-year operations period, the project will ensure participatory inclusion of local communities in the design and implementation of socio-economic and enterprise development initiatives.

Nomzamo Landingwe, chief community operations officer for Matla A Bokone Solar explained that the project was originally known as Droogfontein 2 Solar. Following an extensive community activation campaign, the facility has been renamed Matla A Bokone Solar, a unique Setswana name, referring to the ‘power of the Northern region’.

The 75MW solar PV plant, which commenced construction in October 2018, has over 260 000 solar panels installed and is expected to generate 180 000 MWh of much-needed green energy each year. The 200-hectare plot of land, on which the plant is constructed, Droogfontein No.62, is leased from the Droogfontein CPA community.

More than 450 people from the local beneficiary communities were directly employed on the project during construction. This is in addition to the employment created through the contracting out of various services.

During its 20-year operations, the solar plant will benefit a large number of communities through various economic development programmes.

According to Landingwe, these programmes are aimed at building economic and social resilience, as well as increasing access to the local economy.

The communities that stand to benefit include Barkly West, Riverton, Kimberley, Kimberley Central, Greenpoint, Galeshewe, Roodepan, Platfontein, Holpan, Delportshoop, Windsorton, Ritchie, and Boshof.

Although economic development funding officially commences once the solar plant begins its 20-year operations period, Matla A Bokone Solar chose to implement early beneficiary programmes to begin community support as soon as possible, through extraordinary funding. This included an enterprise development programme that funded local SMMEs.

The mentoring and coaching programme also included a quantity surveying service to these small local businesses.

Beneficiaries of the programme included sixteen black-owned SMMEs, four of which are women-owned.

Juwi Renewable Energies was the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor, which managed the construction processes, before handing over the completed site to the Juwi operations and maintenance team, earlier this year.