A few years ago, there was not much interest in solar technology in South Africa. Today, businesses and government increasingly regard it as a cost-effective alternative energy generator with huge potential to help deliver lower-cost energy, encourage job creation and stimulate local economies, according to Gareth Warner, MD of Solarcentury Africa
“By 2030, installed solar energy capacity is expected to reach over 8,400MW. Government has signed power purchase agreements (PPAs) for over 1,450 MW from solar photovoltaic (PV) projects,” he said.
Warner says South Africa’s climate is ideal for solar. “Most areas in the country average more than 2,500 hours of sunshine per year, among the highest in the world, thanks to its sub- equatorial position. The more light the panels receive, the more electricity they generate – but they work on cloudy days too.”
He says solar is growing in popularity given the rising electricity costs.
“While there is an initial outlay cost, it can be recouped after five to eight years on average. That’s an attractive internal rate of return (IRR) especially considering solar electricity is free after the initial payback period,” Warner stated.
The Jasper Photovoltaic solar energy project
All commercial operations on the 96MW Jasper Solar Power Project, Northern Cape, South Africa, were completed in October 2014.
This was recently announced by SolarReserve, a global developer of solar power projects and solar thermal technology.
The project is near Kimberley and produces 180,000MW-hours of energy annually for the country – enough to power up to 80,000 homes.
The consortium that led the development of the project included Intikon Energy, the Kensani Group, Rand Merchant Bank and Google. This was Google’s first clean energy investment in Africa.
The fully operational photovoltaic (PV) facility plays a part in helping South Africa meet its renewable energy targets, in addition to stimulating long-term economic development and creating new jobs.
In 2011, SolarReserve joined local investors and developers to develop large-scale photovoltaic solar energy projects.
The Jasper Power Project was awarded by the South Africa Department of Energy in the second round of bidding under South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP).
Jasper began full construction on site in October 2013, and achieved full commercial operations a year later.
Benefits of the project include clean, zero-emission solar energy, direct and indirect employment, and the fact that 45% of the total project value is local content spend.
Another benefit is preferential procurement – 60% of the local content is with black economic empowerment providers.
Over R2billion (more than $18 billion) will be spent on operations and maintenance costs during the 20-plus years’ operating life-span.
Using solar power to connect South African schools to the internet
Earlier this year, a pioneering school project in South Africa’s Gauteng Province harnessed the latest renewable energy technologies. The school connects teachers and pupils to the internet, bringing them into the digital age while using renewable energy.
Solar-powered internet schools can improve facilities and help attract skilled educators, making a huge difference to the lives of young people, according to theguardian.com website.
The solar-powered internet school at Jiyana Secondary School in Tembisa is supported by Anglo American’s Kumba
Kumba supplies iron ore to the global steel industry.
Last year, Kumba set aside an overall education and training budget of R34.8m ($3.1m). Almost half of that amount was directed towards pre-primary and primary schools to improve facilities and help attract skilled and committed educators.
The solar powered internet schools are designed for isolated and remote areas with limited or no access to electricity.
The Jiyana Secondary School project includes a bio-digester which produces gas to be used for cooking by the school.
The project also includes a waste recycling station, a revamp of existing buildings and a tennis court-sized vegetable garden to help provide food for the pupils and staff.
The vegetable garden is expected to ensure a continued supply of organic waste into the bio-digester, giving the school a sustainable energy source.
“We are planning to support three more solar-powered internet schools in the Tsantsabane and John Taolo Gaetsewe municipalities in the Northern Cape province and the Thabazimbi local municipality in Limpopo,” Anglo American said in a statement.
The company said the communities have limited access to education and the internet.
“We believe that this project can positively transform the lives of young people, connecting them with the modern world.”
Yvonne Mfolo, Kumba’s head of public affairs, said: “We recognise the enormous responsibility to contribute to the wellbeing and prosperity of the communities in which we operate. As education is one of our focus areas, we believe that our clean energy initiatives at schools will have a higher impact, by improving the students’ performance.”
She said the company could be a developmental partner with the communities in which it operates. “This involves taking full account of the needs, priorities and aspirations of the people in the communities, ensuring that we fully understand and take on board their suggestions and feedback. It is through working in partnership that we are able to deliver projects such as these,,” she said.
Quick Facts about the Jasper Plant
• 96 MW-DC installed capacity; 75 MW-AC net generation
• 182,000 MW-hours generated annually
• 2nd Round of REIPPP
• 45% of total project value local content spend
• 325,480 PV modules
• 80,000 homes powered