31 March 2011
Construction company Group Five has announced plans to build a R5-billion solar power plant in South Africa’s sun-drenched Northern Cape province within the next two years – further confirmation of the potential for renewable energy initiatives in the country.
Business Day reported on Wednesday that the company aims to have the proposed project included in the government’s renewable energy procurement process.
Rowan Gueller, the company’s director of investments and concessions, told Business Day that the solar project could create 1 000 jobs during construction and 80 permanent jobs, as well as boost local manufacturing, with local content for the plant set to be as high as 70%.
Gueller said the company would be submitting its environmental impact assessment this week.
Greg Heale, Group Five’s director of engineering and construction, told news agency Reuters that the company expected to conclude the contractual arrangements for the project, including power-supply agreements with a number of local mining companies, within the next six months.
Northern Cape attracts solar investors
The Northern Cape, with its abundance of sunshine and vast tracts of available land, has been attracting considerable interest from solar energy investors of late.
The government is driving a project to build a multi-billion rand solar park – a concentrated zone of solar generating plants and solar component manufacturing facilities – in the province, in partnership with private investors.
Energy Minister Dipuo Peters, speaking at a two-day investor conference in Upington in October, said the government was ready to contribute its share of the costs of the “milestone” renewable energy project.
Solar power – a clean alternative to both fossil fuels and nuclear power – would help alleviate the pressure on South Africa’s largely coal-based energy supply while boosting the country’s overall energy capacity and helping the country achieve its target of a 34% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020.
South Africa pushes renewable energy
Earlier this month, the Cabinet approved South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan 2010, in terms of which energy from renewable sources will be expected to make up a substantial 42% of all new electricity generation in the country over the next 20 years.
The government’s New Growth Path for the economy also envisages up to 300 000 jobs being created in the “green” economy by 2020.
A pre-feasibility study conducted recently by the Clinton Climate Initiative found that solar projects could generate up to 5 gigawatts of cost-effective electricity in South Africa.
The only major challenge to emerge in the Clinton Climate Initiative pre-feasibility study was the grid/transmission line shortage in the Northern Cape. However, both the provincial and national government have committed to addressing this issue.
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