The 75MW Kalkbult solar plant has become the first utility-scale PV project under South Africa’s renewable energy programme to begin generating power.
Kalkbult is to produce an estiamted 135 million kWh a year for national utility Eskom, under a 20-year power purchase agreement, supplying approximately 33,000 households in South Africa with clean energy.
Construction of the plant began in November last year and is located in Petrusville, Northern Cape Province, the plant has been finished three months ahead of schedule, by Norway based energy provider, Scatec Solar.
Kalkbult is built on leased land from a 105-hectare sheep farm, which will continue to operate alongside the PV plant. “The fact that renewable energy can work in harmony with the environment and without disrupting surrounding activities is often overlooked,” said Raymond Carlsen, CEO of Scatec Solar. “After 20 years, we can upgrade the project with the latest technology and continue operations for many years or we can dismantle it and leave the environment in its original natural state,” said Carlsen.
The plant consists of 312,000 solar panels, installed by local partners and Scatec Solar. More than 600, mainly locally employed, construction jobs were created by Kalkbult, 16% of which were female.
Kalkbult is just one of 47 renewable energy projects awarded a 20-year PPA with Eskom under the first two rounds of the national procurement programme (REIPPP), plus 17 projects that have been named preferred bidders under round three. Out of the 47 bids of rounds one and two, 27 are for PV project with a combined capacity of 1.048GW. Scatec Solar is to provide 190MW of this.
The South African grid is currently almost completely dependent on coal fired plants; the REIPPPP was introduced by the Department of Energy three years ago to tackle high emissions from coal power dependency.
Scatec is now working on two more projects in South Africa, a 40MW plant near Hannover, in the Northern Cape, and a 75MW plant near Burgersdorp in the Eastern Cape. Both are scheduled to be commissioned in 2014 and will use trackers to harvest as much as 20% more energy by following the course of the sun.