30 September 2010
The South African government has extended an invitation to the private sector to invest in an envisaged multi-billion rand solar park – a concentrated zone of solar generating plants and solar component manufacturing facilities – in the Northern Cape.
Addressing a media briefing in Johannesburg on Tuesday during a conference on South Africa’s energy future, Energy Minister Dipuo Peters said that developing the solar plants for the park was expected to cost billions of US dollars.
These costs, to be incurred over a period of 10 years, would largely be borne by the private sector, Peters said.
“We are looking primarily to the private sector,” said the department’s acting deputy director-general for electricity, nuclear and clean energy, Ompi Aphane. “We don’t see the fiscus being overburdened [by the project].”
A solar park would alleviate the pressure on South Africa’s largely coal-based energy supply.
It is estimated that a 5 000 MW park constructed over a decade could create about 12 300 construction jobs annually. The project is also expected to create about 3 010 operations and maintenance jobs by the time the last solar plant is constructed.
Besides the jobs that would be created by the park, South Africa would be given the opportunity to become a manufacturer of solar technology materials.
Pre-feasibility study conducted
The Department of Energy signed an agreement with the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) in 2009 to prepare a pre-feasibility study into the potential for creating a solar park in South Africa. The study was conducted with the financial and technical backing of the CCI.
Peters said the study found that the Northern Cape was ideal for a solar park because of the abundance of sunshine in the province. Land availability, connection to the national electricity grid, and water availability (through the Orange River) were also deciding factors in choosing the Northern Cape.
A number of developers are said to have shown interest in the project.
The government predicts that the solar park project will reach commercialisation within the next two years, depending on interest from investors.