Cape Town - South Africa’s first solar power station has been connected to the national grid and the country will have its first sun-generated electricity flowing through its power lines by the end of the month.
The solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant, situated about midway between De Aar and Hopetown in the Northern Cape, consists of 312 000 solar panels mounted on 156km of substructure.
Once it is fully operational, it will produce enough power to cover the annual electricity needs of 33 000 households.
The 75MW solar plant, called Kalkbult after a nearby railway siding in the Northern Cape, is the first privately-built renewable-energy power plant to be connected to Eskom’s electricity grid.
Built by Scatec Solar, an international company with headquarters in Norway, the power plant was completed three months ahead of schedule.
Chief executive Raymond Carlsen said this showed how quickly large-scale solar energy plants could be built and put into operation.
“This country boasts some of the best conditions for solar power in the world and the annual output of 135 million kilowatt hours produced at the Kalkbult plant will benefit both the region and the local community,” Carlsen said.
The solar plant forms part of the government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme, through which 3 725MW of electricity generated by renewable sources will be built by private companies. The electricity will be sold through 20-year power-purchase agreements with Eskom.
Although the solar plant has been connected to the grid, Anton Krammel, the company’s MD in Germany, said there were still various steps that had to be completed before the plant would be putting electricity into our power lines.
“We are in the commissioning stage. On site there are 84 inverters which have to be connected one by one. We’re doing that now. Monitoring equipment has to be installed. Full completion, when we can deliver 100 percent yield, will be at the end of September,” Krammel said.
Harvesting the sun’s power also means electricity is generated without the high carbon emissions from burning coal, the major source of South Africa’s electricity, making us one of the highest per capita emitters of climate-changing carbon in the world. The Kalkbult plant will represent a carbon abatement of almost 115 000 tons a year.
Scatec recruited and trained more than 500 employees, mainly from the local area, at different levels.
Sixteen percent of the employees were women.
A certain amount of the solar park’s revenue and a portion of the dividends have been earmarked for development projects near the plant.
The company will build two other solar plants, to be completed at the end of 2014. - Cape Times