On Thursday the 15 May 2014, Droogfontein Solar Power, one of the first solar facilities arising from the South African Government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP), held an inauguration event to mark the completion of a six year journey, from project development to operation.
This privately-owned power generation plant is one of 30 that have so far been approved by the Department of Energy to be established in the Northern Cape, which is set to become the province with the largest production of renewable energy in the country by 2020.
“We are proud to be one of the first private power producers established in terms of government’s Integrated Resource Plan, which encourages a diverse range of supply technologies to meet the country’s future electricity needs, reduce its carbon emissions and make a positive impact on local communities,” said Mark Pickering, General Manager of Droogfontein Solar Power.
The fast growing renewable energy sector in the Northern Province is focussed on solar energy and is expected to attract massive investments. Speaking during the State of the Province Address, Premier Sylvia Lucas, said the Provincial Renewable Energy Strategy had been developed to unlock existing potential and to position the province to attract both local and foreign investment.
The Project has now commenced its 20-year operations phase and has set in motion its socio-economic development programme which will have positive impact on the communities within a 50km radius through this programme. According to Pickering, “Education and training are vital if we are to unlock the potential of this new industry and best utilise South Africa’s abundant solar resource”. To this end Droogfontein Solar Power will be devoting the bulk of its social economic development budget to support education.
Programmes to be supported include early childhood development, as part of a crèche support programme; numeracy and literacy interventions at a primary school level; mathematics and science programmes at secondary schooling level; and scholarships for engineering-related studies at tertiary level.
Droogfontein Solar Power will generate 85 458 MWh per year, supplying enough clean, renewable electrical energy to meet the annual energy needs of more than 19 000 average South African homes. It was the first solar plant to supply Eskom with power in the Kimberley area in November last year, realising a milestone for the region. This Project, which is constructed on 100 hectares of land leased from the Droogfrontein Communal Property Association, achieved full commercial operations during the first week of April 2014.