Ernest Wolmarans
2 minute read
4 Jun 2014
8:00 am

Projects kickstart SA’s renewable energy future

Ernest Wolmarans

The completion of two solar panel projects from the first phase of government's Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPP) has been hailed as another victory for the future of renewable energy in South Africa.

An aerial view of the Herbert power plant, a 22MW solar project recently completed in the Northern Cape. Picture: Supplied

“It reaffirms that renewable energy projects can be responsive and completed within budget,” Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership regional technical co-ordinator Jason Schäffler said.

The two ground-mounted solar energy projects – namely Herbert and Greefspan, located near Douglas in the Northern Cape – are collectively capable of generating around 33MW of clean, sustainable energy. They jointly feature 138 000 solar panels on single-axis trackers, occupying more than 1.6km² of land. The trackers are programmed to follow the sun throughout the day, ensuring maximum power generation.

Electricity generated will be sold to Eskom, adding valuable capacity to the national grid, while the construction of Medupi and Kusile power stations continues.

“This is the first real contributor from renewable energy to the grid. Around 4% of South Africa’s energy comes from renewables and this shows the potential of meeting the target of 50% from renewables by 2050. It’s the start of an upward curve that we have to keep going,” Schäffler said.

Sustainable Energy Society of Southern Africa spokesperson Carryn Bateman said the renewable energy industry is poised for significant job and wealth creation, provided the necessary value-chain support from all industry stakeholders is given.

Alwyn Smith, chairperson and administrator of the SA Alternative Energy Association, hoped for continued momentum. “A lot of these projects (from the first bidding window of the REIPPP) are coming online and we hope similar projects from subsequent windows will come online by the end of 2015,” Smith said.

The REIPPP gives independent power producers a chance to bid for a piece of the renewable energy pie to help fulfil the department of energy’s goal of having 3 725MW of renewable energy generation online by 2030.

With more than 90% of South Africa’s energy mix currently coming from coal, renewable energy is considered essential given finite coal levels and coal’s impact on its immediate environment and climate change globally.

Herbert and Greefspan were constructed by global solar technology and energy services company SunPower Corporation – in partnership with AE-AMD Renewable Energy – a joint venture between Spanish company AMDA energia and SA’s Alt-E Technologies – and other partners.

Both systems are owned by AE-AMD and its partners, including the IDEAS Fund, an infrastructure fund managed by Old Mutual Investment Group.