14 November 2013, Johannesburg – Electricity from South Africa’s Kalkbult solar photovolataic (PV) power station flowed into the national grid on Tuesday, making it South Africa’s first solar plant to come online – three months ahead of schedule.
The 75 megawatt (MW) plant near Petrusville in the sun-drenched Northern Cape will generate 135-million kilowatt hours a year, equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of 33 000 households.
The Kalkbult plant will avoid annual greenhouse gas emissions of 115 000 tons that would have been emitted by a fossil-fuelled plant, such as a coal-fired power station, in producing the equivalent power.
The plant is one of the 47 solar-, wind- and mini-hydro projects awarded 20-year contracts to generate electricity under the Department of Energy’s renewable energy programme for independent power producers.
Total investment in the programme is estimated at R74-billion, with the government’s recent acceptance of 17 new bids pushing this closer to the R100-billion mark.
The Kalkbult solar plant was built by the Norwegian-based company Scatec Solar with local partners. It was commissioned in 10 months, with construction beginning in late November 2012.
“Our teams worked literally day and night to make this happen,” Raymond Carlsen, chief executive of Scatec Solar, said in a statement on Tuesday. “Suppliers made a huge effort to deliver their services and equipment, and local people who worked on the project were quick to learn despite the fact that many did not have previous experience in this kind of work.”
Introduced by the Department of Energy three years ago, the renewable energy programme for independent power producers supports South Africa’s international commitments to combat climate change by reducing its near total dependence on coal-based electricity and its high greenhouse gas emissions.
The project also gives momentum to the Green Economy Accord, signed three years ago by the government, business and labour with the goal of creating 300 000 new jobs based on renewable energy generation, energy efficiency, biofuel production, manufacturing of equipment to support “green” projects, and natural resource conservation and rehabilitation.