SolarAfrica breaks ground on SunCentral solar farm, the next big step towards 1 GW

SolarAfrica - SunCentral

Construction has begun on the R5 billion development, marking Phase 1 of the IPP’s flagship utility-scale project.

Independent Power Producer, SolarAfrica Energy, has officially broken ground on its first utility-scale solar farm based in the Northern Cape. Known as SunCentral, Phase 1 of this project will total around 342 MW in generation capacity, with Phases 2 and 3 bringing the total size to an impressive 1 GW – making it one of the largest projects of its kind in the country.

A project of partnerships

During the breaking ground ceremony, David McDonald, CEO of SolarAfrica Energy, explained the significance and strength of the partnerships behind SunCentral – a key driver behind its success.

“A project of this magnitude wouldn’t have been possible without the power of partnerships. Over the past decade, Eskom has found new and tangible ways of making wheeling a reality in South Africa. Their dedication to partnering with the private sector is proof of their commitment to address South Africa’s power generation struggles,” McDonald said.

Emthanjeni Municipality and Business Chamber representatives also attended the event, where McDonald acknowledged the importance of fostering positive relationships within the community. Mayor Lulamile Nkumbi expressed the municipality’s support for the project and emphasised the importance of maintaining open and transparent communication between all stakeholders.

A special mention went to Soventix South Africa. The company originally developed the project for submission into the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPP). Soventix sold the rights to Phase 1 of the cluster development to SolarAfrica and will continue to develop Phases 2 and 3 for the project as time progresses.

Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) firms Proconics and Sinohydro are instrumental to the project’s success. Proconics will install SunCentral’s Main Transmission Substation (MTS) while Sinohydro will be responsible for the installation of more than 500 000 solar panels.

Infrastructure investments and industry advancements

Phase 1 of the project comes in at just under R5 billion. The MTS, totalling around R1 billion, is funded by SolarAfrica and will play a pivotal role in ensuring the power produced on-site can be evacuated into the national transmission grid. The solar installation adds another R4 billion to the investment, emphasising the significant contribution SunCentral will make to the country’s power infrastructure. “Investments of this nature go a long way in bolstering the grid’s ability to manage and distribute power across the country,” McDonald said.

As part of the greater Starsight Energy Group, SolarAfrica’s SunCentral project will also serve as a blueprint for the adoption of wheeling projects in East and West Africa, with a specific focus on Kenya and Nigeria.

Power for good on a local and national level

A project of this extent no doubt has an impact on a local and national level.

Located between Hanover and De Aar, SunCentral brings with it several corporate social responsibility projects that will be implemented in collaboration with local members and leaders for the betterment of the surrounding communities.

“The CSR projects will be aligned to the community needs assessment that will be continuously updated as well as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, National Development Plan, Emthanjeni Local Municipal Strategic Objectives, and SolarAfrica’s company values,” McDonald said.

On a national scale, SunCentral will contribute towards lightening the generation burden off Eskom, so that the private and public partnerships can continue to address South Africa’s power struggles.

Producing greener, cheaper power for more businesses through wheeling

SunCentral will provide power on a one-to-many basis, meaning more South African businesses can access cheaper, cleaner energy via wheeling. It’s no longer reserved for mega power users, and this will greatly drive economic growth in the commercial and industrial sectors.

The power generated at SunCentral is 100% green and comes at a tariff of up to 50% cheaper than utility power, enabling South African businesses to combat the constant electricity tariff hikes whilst supporting their sustainability goals. Businesses that are interested in accessing this power can sign a Virtual Power Purchase Agreement with SolarAfrica.

Customers are already signed up for Phase 1, more to come

With organisations like Vantage Data Centers, ATTACQ and Enpower Trading already signed up for Phase 1 of the project, it’s clear that businesses are keen to benefit from the cost-saving and environmental benefits of wheeling. With Phases 2 and 3 in the pipeline, there will be even more opportunities for businesses to sign up.

SolarAfrica is in the process of finalising several other solar projects in other parts of the country, as they build towards a generation portfolio totalling more than 3 GW.

McDonald added that breaking ground on this project was not an achievement limited to SolarAfrica alone, but rather an achievement for all involved as it underscores the immense potential of wheeling in South Africa.

“SunCentral is now poised to harness this potential to its fullest extent, contributing to a sustainable energy supply for our customers, and the broader communities,” he concluded.

There’s a set limit of national grid capacity that’s available for wheeled power. By signing a VPPA with SolarAfrica, you can rest assured that you’ll have access to wheeling for your business.



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