South Africa is set to add 150MW of power to the national grid through a massive new hybrid solar power plant located in the Northern Cape. The solar power plant is being installed and managed by a Norwegian renewable energy company, Scatec. The company is aiming to install 1 million photovoltaic (PV) panels across a 1100 hectare area, making it one of the most ambitious solar power projects to be undertaken in the world.
The massive solar power generating plant will use lithium-ion batteries to store and send out energy. The ability for these giant batteries to store energy dispels the misconception that solar power can only be generated when the sun shines. Scatec’s hybrid solar power plant will be capable of providing electricity day or night as well as when the grid is under strain and there is a threat of load shedding.
Because there will be over 1 million PV panels installed at the site, there will be an over-production of solar power. All the excess energy will be stored in the battery units to be released as needed. The aim of the project is for the solar plant to support the grid during peak consumption periods and when the grid is under strain (e.g. when there has been a breakdown at a plant).
While liquefied natural gas has been put forward as a potential viable alternative to coal, Scatec have highlighted that this will not be a wise solution going forward with the introduction of Carbon Tax and the move towards more sustainable energy sources. LNG is unlikely to get long-term support and backing from investors.
On the other hand, renewable energy such as solar power is a feasible and sensible option for a country like South Africa, which enjoys a warmer climate for much of the year. Large-scale solar power projects such as the one being undertaken by Scatec, are a risk-free solution to South Africa’s electricity woes and can aid in providing cheaper, clean energy across the country.