South Africa eyes 1.5GW solar complex for Northern Cape Province

South Africa has outlined plans for a 1.5GW solar complex in the country’s Northern Cape Province – if finance can be obtained to expand the region's grid.

The huge solar development would be underpinned by a government power procurement programme as part of national efforts to secure 13.22GW of renewable output by 2025.

The announcement of the Northern Cape plan was made by South African energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson as she opened the 75MW Solar Capital De Aar 3 plant, which is located in the province.

The province is suitable as it “has the highest concentration of solar projects, vast interest for further investment, and sufficiently high solar radiation intensity to support such investment”, said the minister.

Northern Cape Province accounts for about 2.1GW of the 3GW of solar capacity that has so far successfully bid for contracts in the country’s REIPPPP renewables support programme.

The South African government has ambitions to see the province become a net exporter of power before 2020.

No timescales were given for the development, and the minister admitted that no public funds were available for the necessary grid improvements in the current budget round, which runs to the 2017/18 financial year.

“The projects procured in the Province to date have utilised much of the available grid capacity in the Northern Cape area,” she said.

That means that any future generation initiatives will have to rely on private financing until more public funds become available.