Solar park ‘in line with energy plan’

19 October 2010

South Africa is going ahead with its plan to build a multi-billion rand solar park in the Northern Cape, Energy Minister Dipuo Peters said following the release of the country’s draft 20-year electricity blueprint.

The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), a comprehensive policy framework on the country’s future electricital energy mix, has been released for public comment before going to the Cabinet for approval later this year.

The Department of Energy said this week that the release of the IRP, contrary to some reports in the media, did not rule out the establishment of the 5 gigawatt park, one of the largest proposed solar parks in the world.

Plan ‘allows for solar park’

Peters said the confusion around the solar park was due to the fact that its envisaged electricity generation ability surpassed the target for solar power set in the draft plan. Under renewable energy, the plan makes provision for 7 200 MW of wind, concentrated solar power, biomass and other renewables.

Peters said the draft IRP was written with enough flexibility to accommodate the solar park concept, and reaffirmed her commitment to developing the solar park, which comes with an estimated price tag of US$10-million to $15-million.

“Realistic targets for electricity generation can only be included in the IRP once we have completed the feasibility studies, which will provide certainty on the necessary core data with regard to the time-frames for the implementation of the envisaged solar park, the scale of its operations (and the) mix of solar technologies that will be used to generate electricity,” Peters said.

Investors’ conference

A pre-feasibility study by the Clinton Climate Initiative showed that solar projects could generate up to 5 gigawatts of cost-effective electricity in South Africa.

The department has commissioned US company Fluor Corporation to develop a conceptual study, followed by a more detailed design plan for the solar park. The conceptual study will be unveiled at the South African Solar Park Investors Conference in Upington on 28 and 29 October.

“We are closely collaborating with South Africa’s Department of Energy and the Clinton Climate Initiative on this potential flagship solar power development,” Dave Dunning, president of Fluor’s Power Group, said in a statement last week.

“Our company has a strong track record of achievement in South Africa. Just last month, Fluor commemorated its 50-year anniversary of ongoing capital project development in South Africa, and we hope to bring this clean energy initiative to fruition.”

The department intends to establish a Solar Park Authority as a unit within the state-owned Central Energy Fund to facilitate the advancement of the project.

The Northern Cape is ideal for a solar park because of the abundance of sun in the province. Land availability, connection to the grid, and water availability (through the Orange River) were also deciding factors in choosing the Northern Cape, the department said.

SAinfo reporter and BuaNews