(De Aar) – What is touted as the largest solar power farm in Africa has officially been launched in South Africa’s sunny Northern Cape town of De Aar.
The company behind the project, Solar Capital, predicts that as the price of electricity increases, a bigger migration towards solar power could occur, given that it is up to 50% cheaper than the Eskom alternative.
Eskom electricity tariffs are set to increase by 9.4% – a trend Solar Capital predicts will continue to climb as Eskom battles to finish the large-scale Medupi and Kusile power plants. It says there has been a steady increase in the industry of homes switching to solar energy.
The 175MW, 473-hectare facility is the culmination of a R4.8 billion two-phase project. It consists of 503 942 solar modules and was built over a period of 28 months, employing more 2000 people. The project was made possible through the Department of Energy’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (REIPPP), which allows for foreign investment in renewable energy.
Paschal Phelan, chairman of Solar Capital, said at the launch of the facility on March 17 that it was 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 2 168kWh/m². This allows the abundant sunlight in the region to be converted into green energy to be transferred to the national energy grid.”
A jump-start for De Aar
The solar project is expected to jump-start the economy of De Aar, with 100 people to be employed to carry out the operation and maintenance of the plant, while more than R24 million will be spent by the end of 2016 on economic development in projects such 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, as well as an arts training and exhibition centre.
“We plan to create over 5 000 jobs in the Northern Cape,” said Phelan, at the launch, explaining that the project should inspire confidence in the citizens of De Aar. He said that Cape Town and Johannesburg need not be the only economic hubs within the country.