Tshililo Michael Masutha, Deputy minister of Science and Technology, Mikael Karlsson, ceo of Globeleq and Sylvia Lucas, NC Premier during the official launch of the Droogfontein Solar Plant. Picture: Soraya Crowie

Kimberley - The Northern Cape is set to become the province with the largest production of renewable energy and in what can be seen as not only the first but also a huge step in reducing South Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions and building a sustainable green economy, the Droogfontein Solar Photovoltaic Plant was on Thursday launched just outside Kimberley. The De Aar Solar Photovoltaic Plant was launched on Wednesday.

Constructed at a combined cost of R3-billion, the plants will contribute 100 megawatts into Eskom’s power grid as part of government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP).

The Droogfontein plant will generate sufficient electricity to supply 20 000 average South African homes. During construction, the plant created approximately 400 jobs and will employ roughly 20 people on a permanent basis during the operational phase. The plant will also have a positive impact on the environment as it is expected to reduce about 82 tonnes of carbon dioxide per annum, which translates to 1 640 800 tons over a 20-year period.

Kevin Foster, Droogfontein project manager on Thursday officially handed over Droogfontein’s keys to Mpho Makhetha, who will be the plant’s manager.

The event was attended by Premier Sylvia Lucas and Deputy Minister of Science and Technology, Tshililo Michael Masutha.

Lucas said the launch was one of the important and bold strides taken in shaping the energy sector, especially with regard to intensifying the production of renewable energy and curbing the effects of climate change.

“The Northern Cape has abundant renewable energy sources and we are best suited and strategically poised for a number of solar and wind renewable energy projects. These projects will be responsible for creating a number of green jobs in the Province and will also contribute in reducing South Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions at a national level.

“We need to harness these in building an inclusive and sustainable green economy. Protecting and preserving our environment is important for us and is one of the goals of this government. Moreover, the building of sustainable, vibrant communities is another one of our goals within the context of the provincial government’s developmental agenda. To this end, promoting and supporting the use of alternative energy projects will be actively encouraged,” Lucas said.

Masutha said that the launch was yet another feather in South Africa’s “green economy cap”.

“The Department of Science and Technology supports the transition to a low carbon economy, which can be achieved through the inclusion of cleaner energy technology solutions of which solar energy is but one of them,” Masutha said.

He added that the South Africa government adopted the New Growth Path, which had green economy as one of its key pillars.

“The Green Accord, a commitment by stakeholders arising from the pursuit of this strategic pillar, further identifies that among other renewable energy sources, the solar and wind energy industries, will aim to create at least 50 000 green jobs by 2020,” Masutha added.

Masutha also said that the Department of Science and Technology was actively supporting the establishment of a primary solar resource network, which entails the setting up of 12 radiation measuring stations across the country, though the South African Weather Services.

“The data collected from these solar radiation measuring stations, data collected from privately-owned stations and satellite data collected by the South African National Space Agency will be used in developing a South African solar energy atlas. The initiative will benefit the country by quantifying the solar energy potential in the country. The data may be used to inform spatial distribution of solar energy farms including the IPPs. It will also enable the weather services to provide credible data to international bodies and organisations,” he added. - Diamond Fields Advertiser