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Air Products expects startup of Northern Cape solar farm by mid-2025

14th July 2023

By: Marleny Arnoldi

Deputy Editor Online

     

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Industrial and specialty gas company Air Products South Africa has confirmed that it expects a solar plant to supply electricity to its air separation units (ASUs)  to start generating electricity by the second quarter of 2025.

The company earlier this week announced that it would procure up to 75 MW of electricity from a solar farm, to be built by renewables developer Mulilo Renewable Project Developments in the Northern Cape.

The companies will jointly own the solar farm.

Air Products has told Engineering News that construction of a 240 GWh/y solar farm, in the Northern Cape, will take about 17 months from the starting date. Financial close of the deal is expected in the fourth quarter of this year.

The agreement between the companies involved Air Products buying up to 75 MW of solar-generated electricity from Mulilo and having it wheeled from the solar farm to various ASUs across the country.

Air Products has 13 ASUs located in the Vaal Triangle, Newcastle, Rustenburg, Springs and Coega.

The solar farm will provide for between 20% and 25% of the company’s overall electricity needs, with wheeling of the electricity planned to be prioritised to Air Products’ two largest sites.

Air Products explains that continuous process plants such as ASUs require long startup times of 12 to 26 hours to attain stable product purities and production; therefore, they are highly dependent on continuity of electricity supply.

Although Air Products has a negotiated curtailment approach with Eskom to mitigate against unexpected loadshedding, the company still experiences the impacts of loadshedding at its smaller facilities, particularly during higher stages of loadshedding.

This is among the main reasons for Air Products investing in renewable and backup power solutions; but, the company points out, it is not currently feasible to operate its ASUs without baseload grid electricity.

Air Products aims to reduce its fossil-fuel based energy use and carbon dioxide emissions by one third by 2030, with more decarbonisation plans to come.

The project Air Products is undertaking with Mulilo marks one of the first large-scale wheeling solar projects in South Africa.

Wheeling facilitates renewables-based energy transmission from sites with good wind and solar radiation to corporate, industrial and residential customers whose locations may be less conducive to renewable energy production.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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