Independent power producer SolarAfrica Energy has broken ground on its first utility-scale solar farm based in the Northern Cape.

Phase 1 of the SunCentral project will total around 342MW in generation capacity, with Phases 2 and 3 bringing the total size to 1GW and making it one of the largest projects of its kind in the country.

David McDonald, CEO of SolarAfrica Energy, comments: “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.”

Emthanjeni Municipality mayor Lulamile Nkumbi says the municipality supports the project, emphasising the importance of maintaining open and transparent communication between all stakeholders.

Phase 1 of the project comes in at just under R5-billion. “Investments of this nature go a long way in bolstering the grid’s ability to manage and distribute power across the country,” McDonald says.

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.

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 says.

SunCentral will provide power on a one-to-many basis, meaning It’s no longer reserved for mega power users, so more South African businesses can access cheaper, cleaner energy via wheeling.

The power generated at SunCentral is 100% green and comes at a tariff of up to 50% cheaper than utility power.