In a historic moment earlier this month, the 312 000-panel Kalkbult Solar PV plant in Kimberley became the first independent renewable producer to be built, completed and get connected to the grid in South Africa. When the project officially starts putting power into the grid, South Africa can finally begin a journey to low carbon energy production.
The 75MW project will produce in excess of 135 million kWh per year, enough to power roughly 33 000 South African households. Getting this power from a renewable source means we’re putting 115 000 fewer tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually than we would be if this were a dirty fossil fuel plant.
While the plant could produce more power, the Department of Energy limits the production of this and other solar plants. They cannot allow renewable energy on the grid at its fullest because the grid infrastructure is out of date. But renewable energy's potential in South Africa is far greater than is currently being allowed.
Renewable energy could, in fact, account for 49% of South Africa’s energy production by 2030, instead of the 9% that the government is currently planning. The Kalkbult project was finished three months ahead of schedule, declaring 750 000 accident-free hours. With a labour force composed of 16% women, the project created more than 500 jobs in the area. The Energy [R]evolution has the potential to create more than 150 000 of these jobs by 2030 if more projects like these are given the go ahead by the government.
So solar power shines in more ways than one, and shows that it can reach its targets on time and on budget!
This is unlike the lumbering monstrosities, Medupi and Kusile, the two over-budget and behind-schedule coal plants which are currently costing the tax payer R240 billion. Along with their failure to deliver, these dirty coal plants promise to worsen our country’s water crisis.
Renewable energy projects like Kalkbult have the advantage over Medupi and Kusile because they’re smaller, easier to manage, and finance, and as a result deliver on time and on budget, while helping to avoid catastrophic climate change and water shortages.
This flagship project shows that South Africa has the capability, opportunity and technology available to ensure that the future we leave our children is not plagued by problems that we can solve today. To achieve this bright future, South Africa needs a massive roll out of renewable energy.
When solutions presented can encompass environmental concerns, job creation and sustainable energy and development, what use does South Africa have for the dated, dirty and needlessly expensive coal and nuclear energy?