Plans For Solar Park Have Not Been Abandoned - Minister

Pretoria - The Energy Department has branded as incorrect concerns that the planned Northern Cape Solar Park might be abandoned due to the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP2010).

The department said that the release of the country's electricity master plan, IRP2010, does not rule out the establishment of the solar park.

A pre-feasibility study by the Clinton Climate Initiative showed that solar projects could generate up to 5 gigawatts of cost effective electricity, which would be a boon to South Africa's energy grid.

IRP2010 is a 20-year plan that is designed to provide a comprehensive policy framework and energy mix to guide our country's future electricity expansion. It has been released for public comment before it is finally approved by Cabinet later this year.

The current draft IRP2010 makes provision for the target of 600 megawatts (MW) by 2017.

Energy Minister Dipuo Peters said that confusion around the creation of the solar park is linked to the fact that its envisaged electricity generation ability surpasses the target set in IRP2010.

"Realistic targets for electricity generation can only be included in the IRP once we have completed the feasibility studies, which will provide certainty on the necessary core data with regard to the time frames for the implementation of the envisaged solar park, the scale of its operations (and the) mix of solar technologies that will be used to generate electricity," said Peters.

The department said the draft IRP2010 is written with enough flexibility to accommodate the Solar Park concept.

Under renewable energy, it makes provision for 7 200 MW of wind, concentrated solar power, biomass as well as other renewables.

Peters reiterated government's commitment to place 30% of new generation capacity in the hands of independent power producers'.

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, the department said.

The minister reaffirmed her commitment to develop the Solar Park - which comes with an estimated price tag of $10 million - $15 million - by the end of the decade.

Investors and developers who are keen to assess the opportunities offered by the park are invited to attend the Upington conference scheduled to take place on 28 - 29 October.

- BuaNews