Government calls on private investors for solar park

Midrand - Government has extended an invitation to the private sector to invest in an envisaged solar park in the Northern Cape.

Energy Minister Dipuo Peters said at a media briefing on Tuesday that the creation of the solar park is expected to cost anything between 10 and 15 million US Dollars. The Energy Department hopes a large portion of this will be raised by the private sector.

"The cost of developing the actual solar plants is estimated to run into billions of US dollars, but this will be incurred over a period of ten years. These costs will largely be incurred by the private sector," said Peters.

A solar park is a concentrated zone of solar generating facilities (plants) and manufacturing of solar components.

Last year, the department signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) to prepare a pre-feasibility study into the country's potential of creating a solar park. The study was done with the financial and technical support of the CCI.

"We are looking primarily to the private sector. We don't see the fiscus being overburdened (by the project)," said the department's acting Deputy Director General for Electricity, Nuclear and Clean Energy, Ompi Aphane.

A solar park would alleviate the burden on the country's coal-based energy supply, which is under pressure.

It is estimated that a 5 000 MW park constructed over a decade could result in the creation of about 12 300 construction jobs annually. The project is also expected to create about 3 010 operations and maintenance jobs by the time the last solar plant is constructed.

Peters said the study found that the Northern Cape is ideal for a solar park because of the abundance of sun in the province. Land availability, connection to the grid and water availability (through the Orange River) were also deciding factors in choosing the Northern Cape.

A number of developers are said to have shown interest in the project.

Government predicts the solar park would reach commercialisation in the next two years - depending on interest by investors.

Besides the jobs that will be created by the park, South Africa would be presented with an opportunity to become a manufacturer of solar technology materials.

At the end of October, the department is to host a solar park investors' conference.

- BuaNews