SA, Chinese firms invest in green energy

6 December 2010

Cape Town-based Mulilo Renewable Energy has partnered with several Chinese companies to take advantage of the increased interest in renewable energy in South Africa by developing generation capacity from wind and solar energy sources.

Mulilo Renewable Energy (MRE) was formed by a group of internationally recognised South African businessmen, and their partners envisage investing around R15-billion in renewable energy projects in the country over the next few years.

Apart from its technology partners, MRE has a direct funding partner, the China-Africa Development Fund, which is able to underwrite any project sanctioned by MRE.

Long-term commitment, investment

MRE is working together with China’s Long Yuan Corporation to develop six wind farm projects capable of producing an output of 1 500 megawatts. Construction at one such facility, planned for De Aar in the Northern Cape, is set for March 2011, with completion of the first phase set for June 2012.

Long Yuan’s parent company, the Guodian Corporation, has made a long-term commitment to South Africa, and plans to build a state-of-the-art turbine assembly plant as well as a blade manufacturing facility in the Western Cape.

These two facilities would create more than 1 500 “green” jobs, and would service South Africa’s fledgling wind power industry as well as those of other African countries.

Chinese workers will initially comprise less than five percent of the total workforce, and this will further reduce as South Africans gain experience in the development, operation and maintenance of wind farm projects.

The Guodian Corporation (Guodian means “state power” in Mandarin) is a large state-owned enterprise that focuses on electricity generation. With a capacity of 85 000 MW, it is twice the size of South Africa’s Eskom, and includes nuclear, hydro-electrical and coal-fired power stations.

Testing solar modules

The company has also been constructing a solar energy farm using technology supplied by one of China’s top three photovoltaic cell manufacturers, Yingli Solar, in the town of Copperton.

Residents of the small town, some 60km north of Prieska in the Northern Cape, got a taste of things to come when solar energy was delivered free to their community hall and church in May this year.

The town was chosen as an area to test the solar modules in harsh South African conditions, and the generated electricity will benefit the 600 residents of the town that survives on a small agricultural industry.

“This tiny place was originally built as a mining town, but since the operations closed down, it’s been a tough struggle for the residents,” said MRE director Johnny Cullum at the time. “This beginning, although it benefits only a small number of people right now, represents our broad-ranging solar and wind energy initiative for the whole of South Africa.”

The China-Africa Development Fund was established in June 2007, and now has access to several billion dollars provided by the China Development Bank. This equity investment fund aims to help Chinese companies develop cooperative ventures with Africa and to enter the African market.

SAinfo reporter

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