The R4.8 billion solar facility in De Aar is the largest of its kind in Africa, and is expected to power approximately 75 000 homes in the area each year. Built over a period of 28 months, the project was made possible by the Department of Energy’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Programme.
Aside from providing a larger area of the Northern Cape with much needed electricity, the De Aar solar power station will also benefit the local community in a number of other ways.
During the course of the construction more than 2000 people from the De Aar community were employed to install around 3 000 solar panels daily. A further 100 people will be employed to oversee the daily operations and maintenance of the facility, as well as another 500 part-time workers.
The project will likely attract further investment to the area
As one of the largest foreign investment projects every undertaken in Africa, similar projects are planned in Northern Cape area which already boasts 51 other renewable energy plants.
A much-needed boost for the Northern Cape economy
Aside from supplying over 2000 jobs to the De Aar community, the construction of the solar power station will also help jump-start other initiatives in the area. These include community leader programmes, free Wi-Fi for the town of De Aar and the construction of training centres for computers and technology.
The solar power station is relatively low cost
Compared to more traditional coal-fuelled power facilities, solar power stations require almost no additional costs after the initial construction has been completed. This is good news for the Northern Cape government. There are also a number of benefits of renewable energy as it is more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels.
Productive use of the Northern Cape’s arid climate
As one of the driest and sunniest parts of South Africa there is not much arable land which can be used for farming. However, the long, hot days typical of the region are ideal to power the large-scale solar power stations and to conserve energy for use on the national grid.