SOLA Group, a local independent power producer (IPP) 40% owned by African Rainbow Energy (ARE), has reached agreements with banks to finance the construction of a 132MWp solar project in North West Province.
The project is the third-largest renewable energy project closed by SOLA in six months, bringing its total megawatts under construction to 390MW, which represents 588 000 solar panels over 750 hectares.
The project aims to sell energy to platinum mining operations operated by African Rainbow Minerals (ARM) through a long-term power purchase agreement, using the national grid to deliver power to the mining sites.
Eskom would be a key partner through its the measurement and reconciliation of energy from the regulator to consumer accounts. SOLA is constructing and will operate the facility via a joint venture with construction group WBHO.
SOLA Group said in a statement it planned to generate 270GHh of clean electricity annually and provide energy to the national grid.
As indication of the scale of the projects, 390MW would provide about 1TWh (terrawatt hour) of energy annually, equivalent to 11% of the country’s shortfall in electricity supply. According to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Eskom load shed 8.3TWh of electricity last year.
The project is owned by SOLA and ARM, with senior lending from Absa, Standard Bank, Development Bank of Southern Africa and Nedbank. Some 1 200 job opportunities had been created over six months.
The latest project, with two other projects under construction in the North West, had brought R6.4bn of investments to the province and it means that ARE had now invested in one gigawatt of renewable energy projects.
“Apart from providing cheaper, cleaner energy into the network, this project also stimulates economic development in an area where people have had limited employment opportunities,” said SOLA executive director and co-founder Chris Haw.
He said local employees would receive training and valuable skills that would be in high demand given South Africa’s estimated requirement of 6 000MW of new clean power generation annually for the next 10 years,” said Haw.
ARE CEO Brian Dames said the project demonstrated their commitment to build a modern, privately-owned utility to provide clean energy solutions to large customers, supporting the transition of the energy sector.
African Rainbow Energy’s main shareholder, Ubuntu-Botho Energy Holdings, was founded by Dr Patrice Motsepe.