The 1.2MW Black River Park Solar Project has announced that it will be the first solar power plant to transmit electricity into Cape Town's power grid.
The project is made up of a 74,000 m2 office park in Observatory, which houses over 100 companies according to a media release. This makes it the largest PV plant in Africa, capable of producing just under 2 million kWh per year from approximately 5,500 modules. The project is guaranteed for 20 years, and once the panels are in operational costs will be minimal given the fact that sunlight is free.
According to SOLA Future Energy, the first phase of the project has been operating above expectations since 2013, so the office park is embarking on a second phase in order to produce even more.
Why is the project over-performing? The peak demand for power in South Africa tends to be on hot days, when people switch on their aircon. Solar power meanwhile, tends to work best on those same days.
“The approval from the City of Cape Town marks a considerable breakthrough in the pursuit of electricity users who invest in independent power production to sell energy back to the distributors during periods where it is not needed on site,” said Chris Haw, Managing Director of SOLA Future Energy, and Spokesperson for the South African PV Industry Association (SAPVIA).
“This is something that already occurs in most parts of the world and something we’ve been trying to implement in South Africa for years. We’re happy that this policy now applies to all solar projects that meet the City’s embedded generation requirements and we encourage all municipalities to follow suit,” said Haw.
According to the media release, the proposed buyback rate for the power is 49.72c/kWh, approximately the same as that at which the city buys electricity from Eskom, but still lower than the rate at which the office park buys electricity from the municipality. This means most of the power produced will be used on site.