Friday, November 9, 2012

Developers of Kathu solar park expect to start building this month

Building Energy Africa CEO Matteo Brambilla
Building Energy Africa CEO Matteo Brambilla

The developers of the Kathu solar park, in the Northern Cape, expect to be on site before the end of November to begin the construction of an 81 MW tracking solar photovoltaic (PV) plant, which was among the 28 renewable-energy projects to sign power purchase and implementation agreements with Eskom and the Department of Energy on November 5.

The project is being pursued by Building Energy Africa, the local unit of an Italian renewables group, together with Old Mutual; the second African Infrastructure Investment Fund, which is backed by Old Mutual and Macquarie; BuiltAfrica Kathu Solar 75, which is led by former Eskom CEO Thulani Gcabashe; and the Kathu Solar Community Trust.

Rand Merchant Bank is the mandated lead arranger for the debt finance portion of a project that has an associated price tag of around R3-billion.

Building Energy Africa CEO Matteo Brambilla, who has relocated to Cape Town from Milan to participate in South Africa’s “modern and efficient” renewables programme, tells Engineering News Online that construction is expected to continue for 21 months.

However, commissioning will be done in phases and it is possible that the facility will begin supplying into the grid ahead of the official completion date of mid-2014.

Brambilla describes the Kathu project as the largest solar project worldwide incorporating tracking system technology. The PV modules will be supplied by JinkoSolar, of China, the inverters by Elettronica Santerno, of Italy, and the tracking systems by Ercam, of Spain.

Building Energy has established a joint venture (JV) with South African construction group WBHO to build the plant, which will be operated for 20 years by a JV between Building Energy and the Guma group.

Brambilla says Building Energy is pursuing a projects pipeline of over 500 MW in sub-Saharan Africa, and is preparing to submit as many as five projects during the third bid window under South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme, or REIPPP.

The third bid window is scheduled to close on May 7, 2013, but it is not immediately apparent what capacity will be set aside for solar PV projects during that bidding round.

Government initially planned to procure 3 725 MW of renewable capacity by 2016. But work is currently under way to convert the REIPPP into a rolling programme, with Minister Dipuo Peters confirming in October that an additional 3 200 MW would be allocated to the scheme and its schedule extended to 2020.

She also revealed that a total 1 075 MW of the additional 3 200 MW would be allocated to solar PV projects.

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