South Africa to build 1,500-MW solar park

south africa plans to set up solar power
south africa plans to set up solar power

South Africa, which is battling with power shortages, plans to build a solar park in its Northern Cape Province to produce an additional 1,500 megawatts, a senior official said on Monday.

Africa’s most advanced economy is investing heavily in renewable energy to counter chronic electricity deficits, which have forced state-owned utility Eskom to impose controlled frequent power cuts to prevent the grid from collapsing.

“We are putting the project plan in place and could open up the bidding process this year or early next. It’s a question of a couple of months,” Omphi Aphane, deputy director general in the energy ministry, told Reuters at a Cape Town renewable energy conference, referring to the solar park.

The government has previously announced a series of renewable energy projects that would add over 1,000 MW of power to the constrained grid. The government has said it is also committed to introducing renewables into its mix of power generation, 95 per cent of which is coal at the moment.

The government has not put a figure to how much more electricity it needs to avoid power cuts. At their worst power cuts have taken out up to 3,000 MW of demand, about 10 per cent of consumption.

South Africa’s solar projects have been most concentrated in its western region. The country has an average of 2,500 hours of sunshine per year and average direct solar radiation levels range between 4.5 and 6.5 kilowatt hours per day, placing it in the top 3 in the world, according to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa.

A report released on the sidelines of a Cape Town renewables energy conference by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) found that Africa could produce a quarter of its energy needs through green power within the next 15 years.

IRENA’s report said Africa had the potential to increase its uptake of green energy by 310 gigawatts (GW) in the next 15 years, which could mitigate carbon dioxide emissions by 310 megatonnes in the same period.

“Investment opportunities in the sector are plentiful. Renewables can more than quadruple from 5 per cent now to 22 per cent by 2030,” IRENA director general Adnan Amin said on the sidelines of the South African Renewable Energy Conference.

Amin said renewable energy costs had decreased by up to 75 per cent, making it cheaper for African countries to invest in green power generation.

“The technologies are available, reliable and increasingly cost-competitive. The onus now is on African governments to create conditions to accelerate deployment,” Amin said.

South Africa is hosting the conference under the theme “Re-energising Africa”, which envisages positioning the continent as an investment destination for green energy.

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