The South African government is planning a new solar generation project in the Northern Cape which it claims will add a massive 1 500 megawatts (MW) of nameplate capacity to the national grid. Currently, the largest single solar plant is Solar Star in the US, which has 579MW capacity – which means if the local plan goes ahead it could end up being the largest in the world by a considerable margin.

The announcement of an investment into a solar park was made at the South African International Renewable Energy Conference in Cape Town this week by energy ministry deputy general, Omphi Aphane.

“We are putting the project plan in place and could open up the bidding process this year or early next. It’s a question of a couple of months,” Reuters reported Aphane as saying.

According to PV Magazine, the plan is for a photovoltaic plant rather than concentrated solar capture (CSP). The largest PV plant in South Africa today is Jasper in Kimberley, which was opened last year and has 98MW capacity.

Further details on the planned plant haven’t been revealed, but Aphane said that investment opportunities will be opened up next year.

This announcement comes on the back of existing plans to add 1 000MW through renewable energy projects and lessen the need for coal which currently powers 95% of the South African electric grid.

A recent report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) claimed that Africa could add as much as 310GW through renewable energy solutions within the next 15 years.

“Investment opportunities in the sector are plentiful. Renewables can more than quadruple from 5 percent now to 22 percent by 2030,” said director general of IRENA, Adnan Amin at the conference in Cape Town.

Speaking about the cost effectiveness of renewable energy Amin said “The technologies are available, reliable and increasingly cost-competitive. The onus now is on African governments to create conditions to accelerate deployment.”

//Updated 12.44 with extra details

[Via – Reuters]