DE AAR, NORTHERN CAPE – The largest solar farm ever completed in the Southern Hemisphere, Africa and the Middle East region is now in operation and has the ability to provide power to approximately 75 000 South African homes every year.
The 175MW, 473-hectare facility is operated by Solar Capital in De Aar, Northern Cape and 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 Thursday 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.”
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.
“[We hope that] De Aar will have its own hotel and its own industrial base [someday].”
This journalist’s trip to De Aar was sponsored by Solar Capital