Wednesday, September 29, 2010

South Africa to Build 5 000 megawatt Solar Park, Go Nuclear

South Africa's energy minister said on Tuesday that the country will seek billions of dollars in investment for a 5 000 megawatt solar park that will help shift the country toward green energy.

Energy Minister Dipuo Peters said South Africa will host an investors' conference on October 28 and 29 in an effort to generate private-sector interest in the project, an effort to begin weaning the country off its energy mainstay, coal.

The conference will be held in the town of Upington in South Africa's Northern Cape province, a flat expanse of arid land that the energy department and the non-profit Clinton Climate Initiative have identified as an ideal spot for solar energy production.

"The conditions in the Northern Cape are ideal for the establishment of a solar park, primarily due to the intense solar radiation in this province," Peters said.

Ira Magaziner, the chairperson of the Clinton Climate Initiative - a clean energy programme sponsored by former US president Bill Clinton's charitable foundation - said South Africa has some of the best conditions in the world for solar power.

"It's probably the best we've seen in the world all around," Magaziner told AFP.

He said besides having some of the best sunshine in the world, the Northern Cape also has the geography and infrastructure to make it a major solar production point.

"There's large amounts of land, and for solar energy you need a lot of land. In the Northern Cape you have vast expanses of land with no alternate use. And also it's near water, the Orange River, so you can use that for the steam in the plants. And then also it's not too far from transmission lines," he said.

"South Africa can become a major force in the world in the export of solar power."

The energy department estimates the project would cost billions of dollars over a decade-long period.

Peters said the government would provide all the infrastructure for the project, then lease out land to private developers who would finance and build individual projects that would sell power to the national grid.

South Africa relies on coal for about 90% of its annual energy production of almost 40 000 megawatts.

The proposed solar park would provide as much power as one coal-fired power station, Peters said.


As much as 50% of South Africa's' new electricity production could be comprised of nuclear energy, national planning commission member Bobby Godsell said on Tuesday.

"Nuclear power is going to be part of the plan," Godsell said at a public discussion in Johannesburg on energy in South Africa.

Between 10 000 and 20 000 megawatts of the 40 000 megawatts the country would need in the future could come from nuclear energy, he said.