It is indeed a momentous event for South Africa as it celebrated the launch of the first Solar Energy Farm in the North West Province on 28 May 2013 (click here to view video).
RustMo1 Solar Farm is a 7 MW solar photovoltaic (PV) power generation facility located at Buffelspoort, which is 22 kilometres outside the city of Rustenburg in the North West Province. This is the first renewable energy project in the North West Province. The project includes the installation of 11 inverters and 29 808 photovoltaic solar modules, with a step up transformer to connect to the 88kV substation. The farm will produce 244 643 MWh of energy over the 20 year contract period. RustMo1 is destined to supply power to the Eskom grid upon commencement of commercial operation, scheduled for November 2013.
Energy is a key driver to generate growth, development and employment in South Africa. In recognition by the Department of Energy (DoE) that traditional sources of energy such as coal, gas and nuclear are insufficient to meet South Africa’s energy needs and are a potential threat to the environment and the eco-system, the DoE laudably launched the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme in 2011. Solar energy is a solution that will not only provide an answer to alternate energy sources but it is an innovation that provides sustainable social and economic value.
Momentous Energy, a South African black-owned development company, which fulfilled the capacity as lead member and sponsor, was awarded the RustMo1 Solar Farm project by the DoE, in December 2011. As a preferred bidder, Momentous Energy finalised the financial close process in November 2012, after a very rigorous process between Eskom, the DoE, NERSA (National Energy Regulator of South Africa), investors and the banking institutions. RustMo1 Solar Farm obtained its licence for the operation of a generation licence from NERSA in April 2012.
The key criteria for selecting the Buffelspoort site for a solar photovoltaic plant was the proximity and availability of the Eskom grid connection and national grid infrastructure, and the favourable insolation levels with moderate temperatures in the area that is suitable for solar photovoltaic technologies. Rustenburg in addition has a high demand for power due to the fact that it is an area that is rich in natural resources. The site chosen for the plant also had low agricultural and commercial value.
Another key and worthy objective of the project is to facilitate necessary development and transformation in South Africa through local collaboration. The shareholders of the project include the Momentous Foundation Community Trust, Momentous Solar Farm, Momentous Technologies and Evolution One Fund – a specialised clean energy and resource efficiency investor in Southern Africa. The plant will thus create much needed employment in the Rustenburg area and will also contribute to social development in the community. Up to eighty percent (80%) of the employees of the project will be recruited from local areas.
The Momentous Foundation Community Trust has been set up to own a seventeen percent (17%) share of RustMo1 Solar Farm. The beneficiaries of the Trust are the local communities of Lapologang and Tsakane. The initial beneficiary trustees were elected after a consultation process by the persons representing the community. The disbursements from the income to Momentous Foundation will be utilised strictly to bolster the economic development of the local areas.
Additionally, more than one percent (1%) of annual revenue will be spent on local socio-economic development. A partnership with the local FET College has also been forged, where RustMo1 Solar Farm will sponsor students at the Orbit FET College in Rustenburg. A further key objective of the socio-economic development strategy is to contribute to skills development in the North West Province.
The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) has funded this project in terms of Broad Based BEE equity funding. Equity has been provided in the form of preferential share funding for the BEE participation and local community share participation in the project. Nedbank and IDC have jointly provided the debt funding for the project. Evolution One, an entity which focusses on providing funding to the energy sector, provided additional equity, as required for the project. In addition, through the facilitation of investment promotion agency, Invest North West, the project has also been included in the draft North West Provincial Renewable Energy Strategy.
The current operations of RustMo1 are managed by Momentous Operations Services, which specialises in asset management services in the solar photovoltaic sector. The engineering contractor for the project is the juwi Holding AG, the leading German developer for renewable energy projects. juwi has set up a local subsidiary in South Africa – juwi Renewable Energies (Ltd.) Pty. This venture will further foster local job creation and skills development.
A key component of the project is to ensure that it complies with environmental compliance aspects. An Environmental Management Plan was put together in conjunction with the Department of Environmental Affairs. The environmental plan was further reviewed by regulatory and government agencies which included the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry; Department of Water Affairs, the South African Heritage Resources Agency and by Rustenburg Local Municipality.
Momentous believes that the rest of Africa can also benefit from the efficiencies and growth associated with solar technology. Based on the efficiencies and learning’s of this project, Momentous has further expanded its venture into development of other projects in the North West Province, expanded itself into other African countries, including obtaining licences to build and operate solar photovoltaic plants in Namibia, and has commenced initiatives with regards to the development and construction of solar PV on rooftops in the South African market.
Momentous is pleased to report that the build for the RustMo1 Solar Farm project is on track to meet the planned commercial operation date of November 2013.
Momentous is proud and committed to be a facilitator of growth in South Africa and Africa by providing an alternate source of energy through local collaboration.