First solar farm for North West under construction

19th April 2013 By: Sashnee Moodley - Deputy Editor Polity and Multimedia

Renewable-energies specialist juwi Renewable Energies has begun construction on a 7 MW solar park for South African company Momentous Energy’s RustMo 1 solar farm, in Spruitfontein, North West.

The 94 650 m2 solar park is the first in the province and will generate more than 12.5-million kilowatt hours of cost-efficient and carbon-free electricity a year. It will also be connected to State-owned power utility Eskom’s national electricity distribution grid in October.

Construction, including the ground clearing and security aspects, began on February 18. The first full array is scheduled for completion in mid-June and the entire plant, which will have a lifetime of more than 20 years, is expected to be commissioned at the end of the year.

The project includes the installation of six power stations, 11 inverters and 29 808 photovoltaic (PV) solar modules.

juwi Renewable Energies stakeholder relations director Teri Kruger tells Engineering News that the company is involved in Phase 1, which includes site preparation.

“Our company has also begun building access roads to the property and is also installing the fencing. This phase should be completed by the end of March,” she notes.

During the second phase, the frames for the PV solar modules will be fixed into the ground. The modules will then be fixed on frames and connected to inverters.

“Solar panels collect radiation from the sun and actively convert this energy into electricity. The solar panels comprise several individual solar cells, which perform a function similar to that of large semi- conductors, and they use a large-area positive-negative (p-n) junction diode,” juwi head of operations Greg Austin explains.

The p-n junctions convert the energy from the sunlight into usable electrical energy. The more solar cells in a solar panel and the higher the quality of these cells, the more total electricity output the solar panel can produce.

The project complies with South Africa’s greenhouse-gas emissions objectives, as it reduces emissions by about 6 000 t/y.

Austin points out that, while weather conditions, shade and the angle at which the solar panels are installed can affect the output, solar modules can produce power even on cloudy days.

The solar farm can generate electricity for more than 10 000 low-income households and it will provide economic opportunities for 200 locals during engineering and construction as well as operational jobs for the entire lifetime of the plant.

Kruger explains that local staff have been recruited for the project and that juwi hopes to transfer skills and qualify locals in the installation and handling of PV module technologies while transferring knowledge of project or construction management techniques.

She says it is important to develop and rely on local qualified personnel for continuous operations and maintenance to ensure the project is viable for a long time.

Meanwhile, t

he Momentous Foundation Community Trust, which owns 17% of the project, is mandated to use the dividends from the project for community upliftment programmes for all areas within a 50 km radius of the plant.

Momentous Operations Services will maintain and operate the solar farm and juwi is subcontracted to provide the operations and maintenance for the first five years from its control room in Wörrstadt, Germany.

The control centre efficiently monitors all juwi Renewable Energies power plants globally in real time, 24/7, irrespective of where the solar park is located.

The solar plant is the first of four engineering, procurement and construction projects that juwi won during the first tender round of government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme.

“This is a great start for South Africa’s energy transition towards significant renewable-energy power production and for local economic development. The decentralised expansion of renewable energies offers regions great economic activities and increases the local value chain,” says Kruger.

The juwi group has already installed more than 1 500 PV systems, with a total yield of about 1 250 MW worldwide.

Through its majority-owned subsidiaries, juwi is building four solar parks in three South African provinces, including the RustMo 1 and solar PV projects in the Northern Cape and the Western Cape.

The projects have an installed capacity of 35 MW and will provide electricity for about 27 000 low-income households in South Africa.

juwi Renewable Energies is a subsidiary of the German juwi group and, in March 2012, opened a new office in Cape Town.