Construction of South Africa’s Largest Solar Project Commences

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SolarAfrica Energy has begun construction on Phase 1 of its R5 billion Sun Central project, South Africa’s Largest Solar Project, a utility-scale solar farm in the Northern Cape with an initial capacity of 342 MW. When Phases 2 and 3 are complete, the project will total 1 GW, making it one of the largest solar plant projects in the country.

At the groundbreaking ceremony for the Sun Central solar farm, Solar Africa Energy CEO David McDonald, emphasized the essential partnerships behind the project’s success, particularly praising Eskom for facilitating wheeling and addressing South Africa’s power generation challenges. Emthanjeni Municipality and Business Chamber representatives also expressed strong support, stressing transparent communication among stakeholders. Soventix South Africa, which initially developed the project for the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPP), received special recognition. Soventix sold the rights to Phase 1 to SolarAfrica and will continue to develop both Phases 2 and 3.

Developers of the South Africa’s Largest Solar Project

Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) firms Proconics and Sinohydro are also key to the project’s success. Proconics will handle the installation of SunCentral’s Main Transmission Substation (MTS), while Sinohydro will install over 500,000 solar panels. Phase 1 of the project will require an investment of approximately R5 billion. The Mobile Transmitters System (MTS), costing about R1 billion, is funded by SolarAfrica, part of the Starsight Energy Group, and will be essential for connecting the on-site power to the national transmission grid.

An additional R4 billion investment in the solar installation underscores SunCentral’s substantial contribution to the nation’s power infrastructure. McDonald noted that such investments significantly enhance the grid’s capacity to manage and distribute electricity across the country. Located between Hanover and De Aar, the SunCentral project will include several corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. These projects will be carried out in collaboration with local community members and leaders to benefit the surrounding communities. The SunCentral project will also serve as a prototype for other wheeling projects in East and West Africa, focusing on Kenya and Nigeria.

McDonald stated that these CSR initiatives will be aligned with ongoing community needs assessments and will adhere to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the National Development Plan, the Emthanjeni Local Municipal Strategic Objectives, and SolarAfrica’s core values. Nationally, SunCentral will help alleviate Eskom’s generation load. According to SolarAfrica, the SunCentral solar farm will enable more South African businesses to access affordable, clean energy through wheeling. This approach is not limited to large power consumers, which will significantly boost economic growth in the commercial and industrial sectors.

Cheaper Energy

SolarAfrica claims the power generated at SunCentral will be entirely green and up to 50% cheaper than traditional utility power. Interested businesses can secure this power by signing a virtual power purchase agreement with SolarAfrica. The companynoted that companies like Vantage Data Centers, Attacq, and Enpower Trading have already committed to Phase 1 of the project. This indicates a strong interest from businesses in the cost-saving and environmental advantages of wheeling. With Phases 2 and 3 on the horizon, more businesses will have the chance to participate.

The company is also working on several other solar projects across the country, aiming to build a generation portfolio exceeding 3 GW. McDonald emphasized that the commencement of the SunCentral project is a collective achievement, highlighting the significant potential of wheeling in South Africa. The commencement of the SunCentral solar farm, with an investment of R5 billion and a projected 1 GW capacity upon completion, marks a significant step forward for South Africa’s renewable energy efforts. SolarAfrica aims to provide affordable, green energy and set a precedent for similar projects across Africa.

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