South Africa celebrates first solar PV farm in North West Province

The new solar PV plant is the region's first renewable energy project.

RustMo1 Solar Farm is a 7MW solar photovoltaic (PV) power generation facility located at Buffelspoort, 22 kilometres outside the city of Rustenburg in the North West Province. When complete this autumn, it will become the first renewable energy project in the North West Province.

The project includes the installation of 11 inverters and 29,808 photovoltaic solar modules, with a step
up transformer to connect to the 88kV substation. The farm will produce 244,643 MWh of energy over the 20 year contract period.

RustMo1 will supply power to the Eskom grid upon commencement of commercial operation, scheduled for November 2013. Momentous Energy, a South African black-owned development company, which fulfilled the capacity as lead member and sponsor, was awarded the RustMo1 Solar Farm project by the DoE, in December 2011.

The key criteria for selecting the Buffelspoort site for a solar photovoltaic plant was the proximity and availability of the Eskom grid connection and national grid infrastructure, and the favourable insolation levels with moderate temperatures suitable for solar photovoltaic technologies.

The solar power market in South Africa has ramped up a gear, with a stream of project news emanating from the country in the last six months.

For its part, as an area rich in natural resources, Rustenburg also has a high demand for power and contained a site with low agricultural and commercial value. Another key and worthy objective of the project is to facilitate necessary development and transformation in South Africa through local collaboration.

The shareholders of the project include the Momentous Foundation Community Trust – the beneficiaries of which are the local communities of Lapologang and Tsakane. Momentous Solar Farm, Momentous Technologies and Evolution One Fund – a specialised clean energy and resource efficiency investor in Southern Africa.

The plant will thus create much needed employment in the Rusturg area and will also contribute to social development in the community, said Momentous. Up to 80% of project employees will be recruited locally and more than 1% of annual revenue will be spent on local socio- economic development.

A partnership with the local FET College has also been forged, where RustMo1 Solar Farm will sponsor students at the Orbit FET College in Rustenburg, with a further key objective of the socio-economic development strategy being to contribute to skills development in the North West Province.

The current operations of RustMo1 are managed by Momentous Operations Services, which specialises in asset management services in the solar photovoltaic sector. The engineering contractor for the project is German developer juwi Holding AG. juwi has recently founded a local subsidiary in South Africa – juwi Renewable Energies (Ltd.) Pty.

Based on the lessons learned by this project, director Momentous Energy and RustMo1 Solar Farm Pravin Semnarayan Momentous said the company will be further expanding its venture into development of other projects in the North West Province and other African countries.

Momentous said it is currently obtaining licences to build and operate solar photovoltaic plants in Namibia, and has commenced initiatives with regards to the development and construction of solar PV on rooftops in the South African market.

Further reading

OPIC board approves US$250 million for South African solar project

SolarReserve consortium completes $586mn financing for South African solar PV power projects

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Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity