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Two Northern Cape solar plants connect to national grid

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The Aggeneys Solar plant located in the Northern Cape province.
The Aggeneys Solar plant located in the Northern Cape province.

Two utility-scale solar plants in the Northern Cape – Aggeneys Solar and Konkoonsies II Solar – have commenced commercial operations, adding a collective 132MW to SA’s generation capacity.

These sister solar plants, situated within 35km of each other, both form part of BioTherm Energy’s portfolio, and are expected to produce enough each year to power 110 000 households collectively.

The switching on of these plants comes as SA is looking at renewable energy as a solution to the country’s energy challenges.

President Cyril Ramaphosa last week backed renewables as an answer to load-shedding as power utility Eskom struggles to keep the lights on.

The National Energy Regulator of South Africa also recently paved the way for government to buy energy from renewable energy independent power producers (IPPs).

“This is a significant milestone, that sees the first two of our four South African renewable energy power plants feeding the grid,” says Robert Skjodt, CEO of BioTherm Energy.

“There is no doubt that renewable energy offers vast opportunities and should play a pivotal role in the country’s economic recovery strategy. It will not only improve security of supply, but also deliver the many economic and social co-benefits associated with South Africa’s renewable energy programme.”

BioTherm Energy, which is wholly-owned by Actis, a leading emerging markets investor, has a portfolio of five projects in Africa.

The Aggeneys Solar, Konkoonsies II Solar, Excelsior Wind and Golden Valley Wind with a total capacity of 284MW are implemented under the South African Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme, and the 100MW Kipeto Wind project is under construction in Kenya.

Thebe Investment Corporation has a 37.5% stake in BioTherm Energy’s four South African energy projects.

“Thebe has partnered with strong local and international partners with best in class assets to deliver both of these projects. We are delighted that we are contributing to our country’s clean energy initiatives, coupled with the challenge of providing reliable and affordable energy to our people, whilst also contributing to our local and global climate change initiatives,” says Sunil Ramkillawan, CEO of Thebe Energy and Resources.

BioTherm Energy says Aggeneys Solar and Konkoonsies II Solar are situated in the Northern Cape, the province with the highest volume of renewable energy utility power plants.

It notes that with close to 60% of the country’s independent power producers, it attracts much-needed investment, jobs and economic development, placing it at the forefront of the green economic power sector.

In his State of the Province Address, premier of the Northern Cape Dr Zamani Saul highlighted the unique opportunities the renewable energy sector provides for industry, government and the people of the Northern Cape, saying that “as a renewable energy hub, a direct opportunity exists to realise the ideal of unremitting energy sustainability for our homes and industry”.

According to BioTherm Energy, at the height of their construction, Aggeneys Solar and Konkoonsies II Solar provided jobs to over 1 000 local workers from the rural towns of Aggeneys, Witbank, Pofadder, Pella and Onseepkans, situated within the 50km radius of the plants.

It notes these are the same communities that will benefit from economic development programmes, through the 20-year operations period of the plant.

The company adds the focus of the economic development initiatives will include education, skills development and environmental stewardship, in addition to others.

During the construction programme, a number of early spend programmes were implemented, focused on the provision of secondary school study guides across various subjects for Grades 8 to 12, says the company, adding this is in addition to the various COVID-19 relief programmes aimed at alleviating the impact of the pandemic on local communities.

“Both these projects reached financial closure on 23 July 2018 and commenced construction in September of the same year. Together they will generate 33.3GWh of clean energy per year, at a time that South Africa continues to face power shortages,” it concludes.

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