Johannesburg - Eskom and Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba opened a solar photovoltaic (PV) installation at its Lethabo power station near Vereeniging in Gauteng, on Monday.
The first stage of the pilot project was designed to introduce renewable energy sources to supply power for internal use at Eskom's coal-fired power stations, Eskom said in a statement.
This would reduce the company's carbon footprint by about 2 845 tonnes per annum.
Solar PV technologies use the power of the sun to generate electricity.
Eskom said it has a long-term strategy to reduce its carbon footprint and its immediate priority was to reduce emissions at its existing fleet of power stations.
"The solar PV project forms a significant part of that strategy and the lessons learned at the pilot plants will support the rollout of these systems across all Eskom's coal-fired stations over time."
The pilot plants, each 10 000 square metres in size, were located on greenfield sites adjacent to the coal-fired power stations at Lethabo, Kendal in Mpumalanga, and at Eskom's head office at Megawatt Park in Sunninghill, Johannesburg.
The electricity generated from the solar PV plants will provide power during daylight hours for the administration buildings, security and terrace lighting and unit lighting board, reducing auxiliary power consumption.
The total electricity generated from these solar PV plants is 1.55 megawatt, which could power about 1 900 standard suburban houses with an assumed consumption of 200 kilowatt per month.
"This installation demonstrates that we are delivering on our commitment to move towards a lower carbon future over time," Eskom CEO Brian Dames said.
"We have undertaken to invest in renewable energy projects and in cleaner coal technologies, and these solar panels are an important first step towards that."
Gigaba said: "Eskom, as one of the state-owned companies in the country, is committed (to) and supports the Green Economy Accord signed recently by government, labour, business, and key stakeholders as part of the plan to shift towards a lower carbon-intensity economy while also increasing jobs and industrial development."
Eskom said with its two renewable energy projects - the 100 MW wind power plant in Sere, 300km north of Cape Town and the solar power plants - it would serve as a catalyst to develop the renewable energy industry.
"Through these two renewable energy projects South Africa has the opportunity to be a hub for developing renewable energy technology to the rest of the African continent."
At the end of October, the World Bank approved a R1.9bn loan for Eskom's solar and wind power project.
The loan was funded by the Clean Technology Fund for low carbon technologies.
"By investing in these cutting-edge, transformational solar and wind power projects, we are saying that Africa can lead the way in securing a clean energy future," said Obiageli Ezekwesili, World Bank vice-president for the Africa region.