Following the South African government’s decision in 2021 to raise the licensing threshold for embedded generation projects from 1 MW to 100 MW, JUWI Renewable Energies and South African mid-tier gold producer Pan Africa Resources (PAR) today announced that the 10 MW Elikhulu solar energy plant developed by JUWI for PAR’s Evander gold operations has become the first embedded project over 1 MW to receive full grid code compliance from Eskom. When the Elikhulu plant was initiated by PAR, the licensing threshold was 10 MW. With the further increase of the licensing threshold to 100 MW, the mining company plans to expand the plant’s output to 22 MW in 2023 to further reduce GHG emissions and improve efficiencies which will reduce the cost of gold production.
Here is a summary of the plant:
- The solar PV plant will provide an estimated 30% of Elikhulu’s power requirement and materially reduce electricity costs.
- It comprises 26,640 solar modules over 20.1 ha.
- It was built at a cost of R150 million, with cost savings estimated at R100,000 a day, and at current electricity tariffs, payback is anticipated in less than five years.
- It is expected to lead to reduced use of fossil fuel-generated power consumption with an expected reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of about 26,000 t/y, contributing to an estimated 5% reduction in group emissions.
The lifting of the threshold from 1 MW to 100 MW was aimed at alleviating the energy crisis by unlocking private generation capacity. In order to attain grid compliance, projects need to demonstrate full compliance with the Renewable Power Plants Grid Connection Code. South Africa’s energy crisis stems from the current state of the utility company’s aging fleet of coal plants. A huge chunk of Eskom’s fleet is frequently out of service for planned and unplanned maintenance. Just last week, over 25,000 MW of this fleet was out of service, resulting in Eskom implementing Stage 6 load-shedding.
JUWI currently has hundreds of megawatts of similar utility-scale projects in various stages of development for private energy users and mining companies. The acceleration of such projects will play a big role in relieving pressure on the grid. South Africa’s mining sector is huge and is one of the major energy consumers in the country. It’s really good to see another mine in the Southern African region going big on solar.
Speaking on the project, Richard Doyle, Managing Director of JUWI, said “Elikhulu will unlock significant new generation capacity and reduce pressure on the national grid, which contributes to fewer instances of loadshedding. We’re delighted that Elikhulu is the first behind-the-client metre large-scale project to get the stamp of approval from Eskom, which confirms that the project adhered to very rigorous grid connection standards.”
Barry Naicker, head of ESG at PAR, said “We’re grateful that the Elikhulu PV plant is online and operating efficiently, and pleased that it is the first project of its kind to be connected to the South African grid. This represents a major turning point in the country’s transition to clean energy. For Pan African Resources, mining is also about sustainability and going ‘beyond compliance’, which means that we are committed to rolling out renewable energy solutions at all our operations in South Africa.”
Images courtesy of JUWI
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