SolarAfrica Begins SunCentral’s Mega Solar Farm in South Africa

Major Solar Project Aims to Enhance South Africa's National Grid

by Ikeoluwa Juliana Ogungbangbe

SolarAfrica Energy has commenced construction on its first utility-scale solar farm, known as SunCentral, located in the Northern Cape of South Africa. This project kicks off with a 342 MW capacity in its initial phase and is projected to expand to a total of 1 GW through its subsequent phases, positioning it among the largest solar initiatives in the nation.

SolarAfrica Energy presented the ambitious plan for the SunCentral project at a historic groundbreaking event that was attended by dignitaries and local leaders. The CEO of SolarAfrica Energy, David McDonald, emphasized the critical role that cooperation between the public and commercial sectors—including the state-owned utility Eskom—played in realizing this enormous project. McDonald thanked Eskom for coming up with new ways to wheeling, or sending power over the grid, which has allowed for the realization of projects like SunCentral.

The event saw participation from local officials, including the mayor of Emthanjeni municipality, Lulamile Nkumbi, who reaffirmed the local government’s support for the project. Nkumbi stressed the importance of maintaining clear and open communication among all stakeholders to ensure the project’s success and align with community interests.

SunCentral stands as a testament to the power of partnership in renewable energy development. Originally developed by Soventix South Africa for submission to the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme, the project rights for the first phase were subsequently acquired by SolarAfrica, which is also set to continue development of the remaining phases.

The construction and operational aspects of the project have been entrusted to notable industry players. Proconics is set to install the main transmission substation (MTS), crucial for integrating the generated power into the national grid, while Sinohydro is tasked with the installation of over 500,000 solar panels. The total investment for Phase 1 is estimated at approximately R5-billion, with the MTS alone accounting for about R1-billion, funded by SolarAfrica, a part of the Starsight Energy Group.

The huge impact that the SunCentral project is anticipated to have on South Africa’s power grid is highlighted by this substantial expenditure. McDonald went into further detail on the strategic significance of these expenditures, pointing out that they might improve the grid’s capacity to efficiently manage and distribute power across the nation.

Beyond its immediate energy contributions, SunCentral is poised to serve as a model for future wheeling projects across East and West Africa, focusing on regions like Kenya and Nigeria. The project’s location between Hanover and De Aar provides a strategic advantage, facilitating the implementation of various corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. These projects are designed in collaboration with local communities and are aligned with international and national development goals, including the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the National Development Plan.

The CSR programs are especially designed to address the continuous demands of the neighborhood, guaranteeing that the endeavor has a favorable impact on the surroundings. This strategy guarantees the SunCentral project’s incorporation with the larger community goals while also augmenting the project’s social impact. By offering a significant new source of green energy, the project is expected to reduce some of the constraints on Eskom on a national level. This program is in line with the energy diversification plan of South Africa.

Through virtual power purchase agreements, businesses can interact with SolarAfrica and directly profit from the energy generated at SunCentral. Strong business interest in the project’s benefits is evident from the number of organizations that have already signed up for Phase 1, including Vantage Data Centers, Attacq, and Enpower Trading.

The SunCentral project represents an important turning point as SolarAfrica keeps growing and plans to build multiple more solar projects with a combined generation portfolio of over 3 GW. It is a major accomplishment for SolarAfrica as well as a turning point in the country’s energy industry, proving the enormous potential of renewable energy to drive sustainable development and economic expansion.

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