As the world’s combustible energy sources and oil supplies are busy being depleted, many companies and nations have turned to implementing renewable energy sources for the last couple of years – and South Africa is not far behind.

While SA has a number of solar-powered energy plants scattered across the country, one of the biggest ones recently came online. The De Aar 3 plant, situated just outside the sleepy Northern Cape town of De Aar, is an 85MW solar project that uses 200 000 amorphous silicon thin-film modules. This makes it South Africa’s biggest thin-film photovoltaic (PV) power plant.

Sitting on 270 hectares of desert sand, the project will be able to generate 150,000 MWh per year for 35 000 households – through a contract signed with electricity provider Eskom. Under the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement (REIPPP) programme, Eskom agreed to purchase electricity from the plant for the next 20 years.

The De Aar 3 plant is managed by Solar Capital De Aar in a joint venture with Italian renewable energy developer Moncada Energy Group and solar funder Solar Capital Group.

The Northern Cape is a hot bed for solar farms, as Scatec Solar’s Kalkbult solar power plant got switched on in the beginning of September.

“The power station was switched on three months ahead of schedule, and will deliver 135kWh 135 000 000kWh a year from its 25MW array. The plant consists of over 312 000 photovoltaic panels, and employs 600 people. Around 500 of those have been trained by the company itself. Scatec says that the plant produces enough energy for 33 000 households,” htxt.africa’s Adam Oxford wrote.

In terms of the largest photovoltaic power stations in the world, South Africa is dwarfed by the rest of the world. The Topaz Solar Farm in the US produces 500 MW of nominal power (compared to SA’s 85MW), while the Longyangxia Dam Solar Park in China produces 320MW.

The Kathu Solar Park in the North West province is expected to be completed later this. When the plant gets switched on, it should have an output capacity of 100MW.

[Source – PV Tech, Image – Shutterstock]