ILANGA CSP1 has the capacity to light up about 100 000 households and is capable of supplying electricity not only when the sun in shining, but is also designed to store energy during the day for use at night. Supplied
CAPE TOWN - Close to 2 000 construction jobs, over a period of five to 10 years, could be guaranteed for communities in the Northern Cape should the wholly black-owned firm Emvelo proceed to the next five planned stages of its 1000 megawatt solar power station project.

However, standing in the way of this is the government's new draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which does not envisage any further Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) deployment until 2030, said Emvelo's founder Pancho Ndebele. This was shortly after the group's recent completion of its R11billion solar power station, situated 30km east of Upington in the Northern Cape, which is now contributing to Eskom's massively constrained power grid.

The power station is the first of 92 large-scale renewable energy projects in South Africa to be initiated by Emvelo group, a wholly (100percent) black-owned company, which has also led the project's development and played a role in the construction and day-to-day management through all its stages.

Ilanga CSP1 has the capacity to light up about 100000 households and is capable of supplying electricity not only when the sun in shining, but is designed to store energy during the day and deliver power during the night-time peak period when the national grid is under strain, forcing Eskom to resort to its current rounds of load-shedding.

Ndebele said at the peak of construction during the first project about 1800 jobs were created for the communities in the Northern Cape.

“If you look at that environment, most of the people have low skills, but we were able to bring people up to a certain skill level during construction. So effectively, if you were to continue with the second or third project you are actually retaining work opportunities for people in those communities, so that it doesn't stop but continues.

“So, in a nutshell, if we were to allow our second project to happen, you are actually putting yourself in a position to ensure that another 1800 construction jobs would be created over a three-year horizon. If you are looking at more phases you are able to give those families of all those phases, of let's say between five and 10 years, you'd be able to guarantee families between 1500 and 1800 jobs over that horizon,” said Ndebele.

He said from a construction point of view between 1500 and 2000 jobs could be created and in terms of permanent jobs for the running of each solar power plant, around 80 to 100 jobs could be created.

“Now if I got a 100MW power plant, that plant would give me 80 to 100 permanent jobs. If I then put the second and third one, it will also give me 80 to 100, and if we talk about 550MW we need to build in the future, that can easily create between 400 and 500 permanent maintenance jobs directly or indirectly,” said Ndebele.

He added that the group was immensely proud of the achievement.

Commercial operation of Ilanga CSP1 brings to 400MW the total capacity of CSP that has been installed by private developers in the Northern Cape under the government's renewable energy independent power producer procurement programme (Reipppp).

A further 100MW of capacity is under construction by another developer, which aims to supply electricity to Eskom in next year's first quarter, while yet another developer is awaiting financial closure of an additional 100MW of CSP capacity.

Ndebele said Emvelo’s ambitions extended well beyond the Ilanga CSP1 project and the new 100MW Power station was the first phase of its planned 1000 MW Karoshoek Solar Valley Park.

He added that four other projects with a combined capacity of 550MW were at “shovel-ready” stage.

“Renewable energy developers have been urging changes to the draft IRP during the public participation process, and we can only hope the government takes their views into account in finalising the IRP. Emvelo has been pioneering CSP deployment since 2009, before the Reipppp was introduced.

“We have built up the knowledge base required to grow the CSP sector and to position the Northern Cape as the global hub for the deployment and industrialisation of CSP components. It would be a major blow if we and other CSP players were to be stopped in our tracks at this stage,” said Ndebele.

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