Solar and wind already provide twice as much power to the South African power grid as nuclear, says independent power producer Scatec GM Jan Fourie. Photo: File
Solar and wind already provide twice as much power to the South African power grid as nuclear, says independent power producer Scatec GM Jan Fourie. Photo: File

Advances in battery storage capacity key to growth in renewable energy in SA

By Edward West Time of article published Sep 20, 2021

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Solar and wind already provide twice as much power to the South African power grid as nuclear, says independent power producer Scatec GM Jan Fourie.

He said in a statement that swift progress was expected towards realising the government’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) target of 25 percent of total energy supply to come from renewables by 2030.

Fourie said that last year, South Africans experienced intensive load shedding, amounting to 856 hours, almost 10 percent of available hours. The country’ overall capacity to produce energy has plummeted nearly 10 percent over a decade, and there are predictions of a shortfall of up to 6 000 megawatts over the next five years.

He said the government’s progressive stance towards renewables, as outlined in the IRP, committed the country to a shift away from coal towards renewables, and the urgency for cleaner power generation had been a catalyst for the rise in the uptake of renewables and advances in battery storage technology.

“Renewables in SA are now more cost-effective and quicker to establish than ever before - and with no shortage of state support, have engendered a fertile and attractive investment landscape,” he said.

Fourie said because power generation needed to be balanced with demand within the grid in real time, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy had insisted all new energy produced had to be fully dispatchable, at the request of grid operators, to meet market needs when and where they may arise.

“While renewable energy has not been dispatchable until now, exciting new developments in batteries and power storage have now enabled dispatchable power from renewable sources in efficient, cost-effective ways,” he said.

He said Scatec’s project to supply 150 megawatts via three solar arrays in the Northern Cape was an example of this. Around one million individual solar panels, set across a 10km-wide site, would be co-located with storage facilities utilising lithium ion battery technology, which allowed such facilities to achieve a favourable ratio of charge and voltage storage relative to volume and space requirements.

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