28 May 2013 | SAnews
Buffelspoort – Energy Minister Dipuo Peters has lauded the first solar energy farm in the North West, saying that the community can already see the plant will contribute to the betterment of the area.
Speaking to SAnews at the launch of the RustMo1 Solar Farm on Tuesday, Peters said that communities were aware of renewable power sources.
“Communities are aware but the problem we have is that they have not been exposed [to it]… Our people can come here and see it in practice, that you can take the rays of the sun and produce energy from it,” she said.
Located in Buffelspoort, near the Marikana mine, the solar farm is a 7MW solar photovoltaic (PV) power generation facility. Construction, which is still underway, began in February.
The plant includes the installation of 11 inverters and 29 808 photovoltaic solar modules, with a step up transformer to connect to the 88kV substation. The farm will produce 244 644 MWh of energy over the 20-year contract period. RustMo1 is destined to supply power to the Eskom grid when commencement of commercial operation begins in November this year.
“This launch brings me great delight,” said Peters, adding that the project will contribute to reducing unemployment.
Benefitting the community
The farm has come to being as a result of the department’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Programme (REIPPP) that was launched in 2011.
Momentous Energy, a South African, black-owned development company, was awarded the RustMo1 project by the department in December 2011 as a preferred bidder in the first window of the programme. Financial close was reached in November 2012.
Proximity and availability of the Eskom grid connection and national grid infrastructure were the criteria used for selecting the Buffelspoort site, and so were the favourable insolation levels and moderate temperatures.
Additionally, the Momentous Foundation Community Trust has been set up to own a 17% share of the farm, with the beneficiaries of the trust being the local communities of Lapologang and Tsakane.
The disbursements from the income to the foundation will be used to bolster the economic development of local areas, while the farm will also sponsor students at a local FET college.
Director at the farm, Pravin Semnarayan, said that the plant will employ 23 people on a continuous basis during operation.
“We are very proud. This is a big achievement,” he said of the launch, adding that Momentous Energy will definitely be bidding in other windows of the renewable energy programme in future.
The Rustenburg area has a high demand for electricity due the presence of its rich natural resources. The North West province is the fourth largest consumer of electricity in the country.
Building an energy secure future
Peters referred to the REIPPP as a “test case” that has thus far been a success.
“The success of the renewable energy initiative will determine the size and growth of renewable energy in our plans going into the future,” she said, adding that lessons learnt from the first and second window of the programme would be taken into cognisance, as the department reviews the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP 2010) this year.
The IRP 2010 places specific emphasis on broadening electricity supply technologies to include gas, imports, nuclear, biomass, renewables (wind, solar and hydro), in response to both the country’s future electricity needs as well as reduce its CO2 emissions.
South Africa wants to procure 3 725 MW of renewable energy through this process.
According to the IRP 2010 – which is a 20-year projection on electricity supply and demand – about 42% of electricity generated in South Africa is required to come from renewable resources.
Asked about what stood out for her over the course of sod turnings since the first window of REIPPP, Peters said that at a previous sod turning event in Port Elizabeth, the developers had already put in solar street lights for the community.
“It means that communities are already starting to benefit, even before [the plants] generate power. [RustMo] also stands out for me in that the people that clean the panels are going to be trained… The panels are cleaned in the evening. During the day, they can attend school – meaning they can work and study at the same time,” the minister said.