South Africa will meet with potential investors for a 5,000-megawatt “solar park” that could cost $10 million to $50 million and generate over 15,000 jobs, energy minister Dipuo Peters said.
A solar park is a concentrated zone of solar development including solar power generating and components manufacturing facilities. It is modeled after typical industrial development zones.
The meeting will be held for two days starting October 28 in Upington town in the Northern Cape province, the site being eyed for the project, which already has a verified pre-feasibility study.
Consequently, the ministry will proceed with a full feasibility study for the project, Ms. Peters said.
Ms. Peters said the cost of developing the actual solar plants is estimated to run into billions of dollars during the 10-year construction, and the private sector will to absorb most of the expenses.
A pre-feasibility study began by the Ministry of Energy and United States-based Clinton Climate Initiative in 2009 identified Upington in the Northern Cape region as an ideal location for building the solar complex due to its intense solar radiation.
Also cited were easy accessibility to transportation and to water from the Orange River, proximity to transmission lines and sufficient land area.
“Manufacturers of components that are not currently made in South Africa, such as [concentrated solar power]-specific receivers, may find it attractive to build capacity to manufacture locally with large-scale demand and a supportive environment,” said Ms. Peters.
The project, which will accommodate both solar thermal and photovoltaic technologies, could make the country a manufacturing and technology hub for the global solar industry, she said.
“If South Africa moves quickly, it has an opportunity to become a key manufacturer of solar technology,” said Ms. Peters. “For international companies, a solar park would indicate a serious and long-term commitment to solar deployment, giving them the confidence to establish a presence and invest in the country.”
The solar park will create 12,300 jobs during the construction and an additional 3,010 for its operations and maintenance in areas currently with a high rate of unemployment, the minister said.
The International Energy Agency said South Africa’s solar energy generation amounted to 21 gigawatt-hours compared with its 247-GWh coal production in 2007. In 2008, South Africa’s coal energy exports amounted to 68,168 thousand short tons.