Solar power plant lights up the Northern Cape

The 100 MW power plant is flexible, says Emvelo founder Pancho Ndebele. (Emvelo)

The 100 MW power plant is flexible, says Emvelo founder Pancho Ndebele. (Emvelo)

In the latest success of the government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP), a 100% black-owned solar plant is now operating in Upington in the Northern Cape.

The plant, Ilanga CSP1, is expected to produce clean solar energy for 100 000 households, displacing 340 000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

In a statement on Friday, green economy company Emvelo said Ilanga CSP1 was a “truly transformation project”. Emvelo conceived of and developed the solar power plant and believes it will have a “lasting socio-economic impact in the Karoshoek Solar Valley area”.

CSP stands for concentrated solar power which is the process of generating electricity using mirrors “to concentrate the sun’s light energy onto a receiver and convert it into heat”.
The heat is then used to create steam to move a turbine which results in electricity.

The 100 MW power plant is flexible, says Emvelo founder Pancho Ndebele. “It has been designed to operate as a semi peaking power station during the day time and up to five hours at full load after sunset.”

“Nighttime electricity generation is achieved with a molten salt energy storage facility”.

Construction for the R11-billion plant began in November 2015, and it had a direct impact on the community.

According to the construction company involved with Ilanga CSP1, 85% of the hours worked were clocked by workers from the local community.

With the plant in operation, it will employ 62 people directly, and 30 indirectly.

Tshepo Rachidi, chairman of Karoshoek Solar One said, “Ilanga CSP1 ticks all the boxes in terms of proactive black economic transformation, developed by a Black IPP [independent power producer] Emvelo, its two top executives are black females, CEO Niroshma Chetty and CFO Zandi Nkone and two-thirds of its board members are black and is 80% South African-owned”.

READ MORE: Big boost in jobs in renewable energy sector worldwide with 10-million now employed

Since the project came into operation this weekend, Chetty said, “Not many projects have been completed on time and within budget, as we have done.”

As a part of the government programme — which encourages private capital to invest in the renewable sector to provide renewable energy to Eskom —  Ilanga CSP1 will be expected to contribute to social and economic development projects around the plant, local newspaper the Diamond Field Advertiser reported. 

Gemma Ritchie

Gemma Ritchie

Gemma Ritchie works in the Mail & Guardian's online department. She majored in English Literature at a small liberal arts college in the USA.  Read more from Gemma Ritchie

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