Fin24

SA seeks money for vast solar park

2010-09-29 08:42

Cape Town - South Africa's energy minister said on Tuesday that the country will seek billions of dollars in investment for a 5 000 megawatt solar park that will help shift the country toward green energy.

Energy Minister Dipuo Peters said South Africa will host an investors' conference on October 28 and 29 in an effort to generate private-sector interest in the project, an effort to begin weaning the country off its energy mainstay, coal.

The conference will be held in the town of Upington in South Africa's Northern Cape province, a flat expanse of arid land that the energy department and the non-profit Clinton Climate Initiative have identified as an ideal spot for solar energy production.

"The conditions in the Northern Cape are ideal for the establishment of a solar park, primarily due to the intense solar radiation in this province," Peters said.

Ira Magaziner, the chairperson of the Clinton Climate Initiative - a clean energy programme sponsored by former US president Bill Clinton's charitable foundation - said South Africa has some of the best conditions in the world for solar power.

"It's probably the best we've seen in the world all around," Magaziner told AFP.

He said besides having some of the best sunshine in the world, the Northern Cape also has the geography and infrastructure to make it a major solar production point.

"There's large amounts of land, and for solar energy you need a lot of land. In the Northern Cape you have vast expanses of land with no alternate use. And also it's near water, the Orange River, so you can use that for the steam in the plants. And then also it's not too far from transmission lines," he said.

"South Africa can become a major force in the world in the export of solar power."

The energy department estimates the project would cost billions of dollars over a decade-long period.

Peters said the government would provide all the infrastructure for the project, then lease out land to private developers who would finance and build individual projects that would sell power to the national grid.

South Africa relies on coal for about 90% of its annual energy production of almost 40 000 megawatts.

The proposed solar park would provide as much power as one coal-fired power station, Peters said.

Comments
  • Gerhard - 2010-09-29 09:35

    Yay! At last.

  • Jacqui Bradley - 2010-09-29 09:52

    At last someone with a bit of sense! We may just be saved after all

  • Andy - 2010-09-29 09:53

    Sounds good! Just hope none falls into the back pocket...

  • Shane - 2010-09-29 09:55

    Awesome news, best of luck and God Bless all who make this happen.

  • Nic - 2010-09-29 10:03

    awesome!!! finally the penny dropped. Now how about wind turbines in Eastern Cape, just outside PE?

  • J ON - 2010-09-29 10:03

    Big up to these guys. LEts hope they get it done ASAP.

  • Dave - 2010-09-29 10:05

    South Africa heading in the right direction :)

  • Thomas - 2010-09-29 10:12

    This sort of news warms the cockels of the heart,except for a couple of small insignificant details.... 1. The rated output will only be achieved over 6 hours or so. 2. Power will only be available during this period if there is no storage facility. 3. if storage is eventually implemented, then the rated continuous available power will be reduced by 80%-90% (depending on power recovery efficiency). 4. A small nuke would provide full power 24/7, so why waste all this money ?

  • Henk - 2010-09-29 10:12

    Another pie in the sky! Another new chapter to be written in the RSA Government Corruption Manual.

  • Marilie - 2010-09-29 10:12

    Good news! Yes, agreed, high time

  • razzy - 2010-09-29 10:24

    Awesome. Wonder if individuals can invest as well?

  • Curious George - 2010-09-29 10:37

    Best electricity news in years!!

  • Erney - 2010-09-29 11:05

    Fantastic, long overdue. The V.I.P.'s on the gravey train is going to get their "cuts" whichever way it goes, like with all project where there is government involvement. However, after they have prop up their bank accounts the solar park will still be a huge plus for green energy in South Africa.

  • James Thorpe - 2010-09-29 11:42

    Good comment, Thomas. I agree with you... you have to look at the whole project and not get blinded (excuse pun) by the "clean energy" label. If they can satisfactorily answer these questions and sidestep the government back-pocket siphon then they get the thumbs up. But the quoted comments aren't too inspiring- "near to power lines","near to water" sounds like a grade 7 geography project report. I hope this guy is cleverer than the reporter makes him sound.

  • Offbeat - 2010-09-29 11:46

    While solar energy is a wonderful alternative to coal, it doesn't have a very good ratio with regards to financial input / energy output. It requires a high amount of skilled maintenance (brain-drain anyone?). Nuclear energy, on the other hand, whilst not being as environmentally friendly, has a virtually unlimited output, and is in the long run, a very cost-effective energy source. If the pebble-bed reactor research wasn't borked by beaurocracy (on which SA was a world-leader), we could've had a test-bed close to completion by this time. Why there isn't any focus on what has been proven to be a highly effective energy source is beyond me.

  • LAMI - 2010-09-29 12:09

    Finally,the country is heading the right way.there are enough natural energy resources in the country to sustain every living thing for generations and generations

  • RJ - 2010-09-29 12:21

    Solar park. Sounds good on paper but where to sight it is the big question. As for wind turbines be wary be very wary. The is lots of literature from the Denmark experience the suggests that it is not all it is cracked up to be for a variety of reasons.

  • BOB - 2010-09-29 12:34

    Solar power is not as environmentally friendly as people would like us to believe. We have a strong ocean current, just off Richards Bay, that runs at a consistant rate night and day all year round. Would it not be better to harness that energy?

  • Eric Mair - 2010-09-29 12:37

    Thomas & James, solar thermal power plants (CSP) nowadays have integrated thermal batteries which allow them to provide dispatchable power 24/7. Electrical generators will soon be able to do the same. There are electrical storage technologies already out of development and into demonstration, so maybe even as soon as next year wind and PV will be able to offer 24/7 power too. All thermal power plants need water solar and coal have about the same requirement - depending on which solar technology is employed. Most of them use less water than coal. Nukes use so much water they can only be sited on the coast where they use sea water for cooling. Land-wise, you need to consider mining, processing and transportation when conventional fuels are being discussed. And hen there is the ever-so-slight problem of finite resources. Even coal is said to peak in the next 30 years or so. Then what do we do? If we don't invest in renewables now we will be in very deep energy doo-doo in a very short while.

  • Francois - 2010-09-29 13:55

    As progressive as this looks at first sight, things don't add up: "South Africa can become a major force in the world in the export of solar power." "...the project would cost billions of dollars over a decade-long period." How is that going to lead to an exportable surplus, given that we're already sitting with our own electricity shortage, and the fact that this project will equal only a single coal power station? Not to mention the complications Thomas lists? I don't get the impression this lot's been properly thought through at all. On the contrary, I wouldn't be surprised if opportunistic private sector interests pointed out to an opportunistic cabinet committee the potential individual gain from expediently channelling public funds into the current green flavour of the month.

  • Francois - 2010-09-29 14:07

    As progressive as this looks at first sight, things don't add up: "South Africa can become a major force in the world in the export of solar power." "...the project would cost billions of dollars over a decade-long period." How is that going to lead to an exportable surplus, given that we're already sitting with our own electricity shortage, and the fact that this project will equal only a single coal power station? Not to mention the complications Thomas lists? I don't get the impression this lot's been properly thought through at all. On the contrary, I wouldn't be surprised if opportunistic private sector interests pointed out to an opportunistic cabinet committee the potential individual gain from expediently channelling public funds into the current green flavour of the month.

  • Thomas - 2010-09-29 16:41

    hi Eric. practical Thermal storage might still be a way off. However, even if it is successfull, would you agree that the power quoted for these projects gives a false impression of baseload capacity ? Also, when recovering from a storage system, efficiency is bound to be 50% or so, reducing the available power further. In essence , when the protagonists quote a power for solar systems and we want to equate to a conventional 24/7 output station, i think division by 5 is being generous! The proposed system then becomes a 1000MW plant. Little ol Koeberg is 1800MW.

  • Kelly - 2010-09-29 22:10

    The most cost effective answer for the government would allow private individual to sell power generated from photovoltaic cells. Should the individual generate more power than they consume this should then enter the grid and be sold back to the municipality in the form of credits to the other municipal fees example sewage and rates. With this as an incentive the individual would be encouraged to make the necessary capital expenditure. Further more by decentralising power creation many new employment opportunities will be available This will also help to bring electricity to parts of the country which are not connected to the power grid and would do so at a much cheaper rate and with far less of an environmental impact. The technology to sell power back into the grid has been around for at least twenty years.

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