Developed on a secluded site 50 km south-west of Prieska, in the Northern Cape, the 86 MW Mulilo-Sonnedix-Prieska photovoltaic (PV) project was linked to the national grid in October, on schedule and within budget, hence reaching full grid code conformity in good time for commercial operation.
The PV installation, which took a year and two months to finish, lies across 125 hectares and is valued at R1.4-billion.
Greg Austin, MD of Juwi Renewable Energies, the Mulilo-Sonnedix-Prieska project’s developer, says it is the largest solar PV engineering, procurement and construction project delivered in such a far-off site by the corporation. “We have now gotten into the operations and maintenance stage and look forward to ascertaining the guaranteed performance on behalf of the owners.”
He noted that Juwi Renewable Energies has gotten “great feedback” from state-run power utility Eskom’s grid access unit and the National Energy Regulator of South Africa’s renewable energy technical evaluation board concerning its grid code compliance preparation and implementation.
The energy resulting from the project is able to power 86 000 households and is believed to be the first PV project under the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme to achieve grid code compliance before reaching commercial operation, according to Juwi Renewable Energies.
Despite the fact that the Northern Cape is “one of the finest irradiation regions in the world and has vast future energy generation latent”, Austin says the grid connection in the area, as with projects in other regions in the state, is a major challenge. “You cannot export power without a suitable grid and, thus, the limitations of the grid act as an inhibitor which the Department of Energy, as well as all industry stakeholders, should be tackle right away.”
He said the operation and maintenance task is the main business of Juwi Renewable Energies. “We realize that peace of mind for the financiers; lenders and proprietors over the 20-year life span of a project are significant, allowing them to get their profits on investment.”
The locals gain in different ways from such a project, he adds, pointing out that electrical and civils company Quebar Electrical & Civil Construction did the quality checks on 275 000 modules and presently take on the operation and maintenance service on site.1 720 people were employed, of which 911 came from local population.