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Top 10 Biggest Solar Farms in South Africa to Explore

By Oluchukwu Ikemefuna

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The solar farms in South Africa exemplify the country’s embrace of solar energy, particularly through these ten largest projects.

Each solar farm highlights not only the technological advancements in the renewable energy sector but also South Africa’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint and transitioning to sustainable energy sources.

These solar farms collectively contribute hundreds of megawatts to the national grid, providing clean, reliable electricity to thousands of homes and businesses.

The success of these projects demonstrates the viability of renewable energy in South Africa and serves as a model for other countries seeking to harness the power of the sun.

The Northern Cape, with its vast expanses and high solar irradiance, remains at the forefront of this solar revolution. The projects listed in this article represent just a fraction of the potential for solar energy in South Africa.

What is a Solar Farm?

A solar farm, also known as a solar power plant, is a large-scale installation designed to generate electricity by harnessing energy from the sun.

These farms use vast arrays of photovoltaic (PV) panels or Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) systems to convert sunlight into electrical energy, which is then fed into the national grid or used locally.

Read also: Green Axis

Why are solar farms important for South Africa?

Solar farms are crucial for South Africa because they help diversify the country’s energy mix, reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Given South Africa’s high levels of sunlight, solar farms are an efficient and sustainable way to meet the growing energy demand while promoting environmental sustainability.

Most of these solar farms in south Africa uses photovoltaic (PV) technology, which converts sunlight directly into electricity using solar panels. Some, like the Kathu Solar Park, use Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) technology, which uses mirrors to focus sunlight and generate heat, which is then used to produce electricity.

What are the Top 10 Biggest Solar farms in South Africa to Explore?

South Africa, blessed with abundant sunshine, is rapidly advancing in the renewable energy sector, with solar farms playing a significant role in the country’s energy mix. 

Below are the ten largest solar farms in South Africa, highlighting their capacities, locations, and contributions to sustainable energy.

1.De Aar Solar Power

De Aar Solar Power is one of South Africa’s largest and most notable solar farms. It is located in the Northern Cape and boasts a capacity of 85.26 MW. 

De Aar Solar Power was commissioned in 2014 and is part of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP)

It utilizes photovoltaic (PV) panels to convert sunlight into electricity, contributing significantly to the national grid and reducing carbon emissions.

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2. Jasper Solar Energy Project| Jasper Power Plant

The Jasper Solar Energy Project is also a solar farm in South Africa, situated in Postmasburg, in the Northern Cape.

It is a photovoltaic project, jointly developed by SolarReserve, a US-based utility-scale solar power developer; Kensani Capital Investments, a South African empowerment infrastructure company; and Intikon Energy, a South African renewable energy project developer.

Jasper Solar Energy is a pioneering project and one of the largest operational solar PV plants in Africa, with a capacity of 96 MW.

The Jasper facility comprises 39 units of 2MW AC central inverter stations, and some 325 600 such modules were installed there.

Jasper became operational in 2014 and can generate enough electricity to power approximately 80,000 homes annually. This project is notable for its size and role in demonstrating the viability of large-scale solar energy in the region.

According to the project’s website, the plant spans 3 kilometers from north to south and generates approximately 180 GWh of electricity annually.

3. Kathu Solar Park

Kathu Solar Park is one of the solar farms in South Africa located in the Northern Cape.

It is another impressive addition to South Africa’s solar portfolio. Unlike the previously mentioned farms, Kathu uses Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) technology with a capacity of 100 MW.

CSP systems use mirrors or lenses to concentrate a large area of sunlight onto a small area. 

Kathu’s parabolic trough system stores energy in molten salt, allowing it to produce electricity even after sunset, enhancing its reliability and efficiency.

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4. KaXu Solar One

KaXu Solar One is located near Pofadder in the Northern Cape and  is a 100 MW CSP plant that began operations in 2015. 

Like Kathu, KaXu uses parabolic trough technology and molten salt for energy storage, ensuring a stable and continuous supply of electricity. 

This facility is part of South Africa’s efforts to diversify its energy sources and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

5. Xina Solar One

Xina Solar One, with a capacity of 100 MW, is another prominent CSP plant in the Northern Cape. 

It was commissioned in 2017 and utilizes parabolic trough technology with molten salt storage. 

Spread over 850,000 square meters near Pofadder in the Northern Cape, this 100 MW thermo-solar power plant, combined with the adjacent KaXu Solar One, forms Africa’s largest solar power complex.

The Xina Solar One plant utilizes cylindrical-parabolic collectors and a thermal storage system to generate electricity. These parabolic concentrators, made of curved mirrors, track the sun and concentrate solar energy onto synthetic oil-filled absorber pipes.

The oil in these pipes is heated to 395°C and transferred to a heat exchanger, which heats water to produce steam. The steam drives a turbine, generating electricity.

Also, the oil’s heat is used to heat 47,000 tons of molten salt in thermal energy storage tanks, enabling the plant to generate electricity for up to five hours after sunset.

Xina plays a crucial role in providing baseload power, demonstrating the potential of CSP to contribute significantly to South Africa’s energy mix, especially during peak demand periods.

Read also: Arnergy, Provider of Solar Power Systems to Homes and Businesses in Nigeria, Raises $3M

6. Ilanga CSP 1/Karoshoek Solar One

Ilanga CSP 1 located near Upington in the Northern Cape, is a 100 MW CSP plant that became operational in 2018. 

This facility uses parabolic trough technology and features thermal energy storage, enabling it to generate electricity for up to five hours after sunset. 

Ilanga CSP 1 contributes to grid stability and reliability, showcasing the benefits of CSP technology in the renewable energy sector.

7. Aurora-Rietvlei Solar Project

The Aurora-Rietvlei Solar Project is a significant PV solar farm located in the Northern Cape. 

It has a capacity of 122 MW and was commissioned as part of the REIPPPP. 

This project highlights the scalability of PV technology and its potential to contribute to South Africa’s renewable energy targets. 

The Aurora-Rietvlei Solar Project shows the importance of large-scale solar farms in transitioning to sustainable energy sources.

Read also: Your Complete Guide to Solar Panel Maintenance

8. Adams Solar PV 2 | Photovoltaic

Adams Solar PV2 is a 75 MW photovoltaic solar park situated in Hotazel, Northern Cape. 

It is owned by Enel Green Energy and the plant generates 167 GWh of energy annually.

Adams Solar offsets 171,700 metric tons of carbon dioxide and supplies electricity to 100,000 households each year. 

Its construction began in 2017, with the plant becoming operational later that year.

9. Lesedi Solar Park

Lesedi Solar Park is one of the top solar farms in South Africa that is located in the Northern Cape.

It has a capacity of 75 MW and started operations in 2014. It is one of the earlier solar PV projects commissioned under the REIPPPP. 

Lesedi Solar Park demonstrates the effectiveness of PV technology in harnessing South Africa’s abundant sunlight and contributing to the national grid. 

The project also shows the economic and environmental benefits of large-scale solar installations.

Read also: 16 Questions You Should Ask your Solar Installer

10. Mulilo Sonnedix Prieska PV

The Mulilo Sonnedix Prieska PV plant, with a capacity of 75 MW, is located near Prieska Copperton in the Northern Cape. 

It was Commissioned in 2016, and this project is part of a broader effort to increase renewable energy capacity in the region. 

This 75 MW solar PV farm is owned by TotalEnergies (27%), along with five other partners: Calulo Renewable Energy (25%), Mulilo Renewable Energy (18%), the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) (15%), Futuregrowth Asset Management (10%), and the local municipality (5%).

The Mulilo Sonnedix Prieska PV plant showcases the potential for large-scale solar PV installations to provide clean, sustainable energy and reduce carbon emissions.

How do solar farms contribute to job creation and economic growth and their Challenges?

Solar farms create jobs during both the construction and operational phases. They require various skills, from engineering and construction to maintenance and administration. 

Also, these projects often stimulate local economies by sourcing materials and services locally and can attract further investment in renewable energy infrastructure.

Solar farms in South Africa face challenges such as grid connectivity issues, regulatory and policy hurdles, financing constraints, and competition for land use. 

There are also technical challenges related to energy storage and the intermittency of solar power, which can impact the stability of the power supply.

Read also: Nigeria to Provide Solar Subsidy for Unserved Areas via World Bank Approved Loan

What environmental benefits do solar farms offer and How can South Africa further develop its solar energy capacity?

Solar farms provide several environmental benefits, including 

  • reducing greenhouse gas emissions, 
  • decreasing air pollution, and 
  • conserving water resources compared to traditional fossil fuel power plants. 
  • They also help mitigate climate change by providing a clean and renewable source of energy.

South Africa can further develop its solar energy capacity by:

  • Implementing supportive policies and regulatory frameworks.
  • Investing in grid infrastructure and energy storage solutions.
  • Encouraging public and private sector partnerships.
  • Promoting research and development in solar technologies.
  • Providing incentives for renewable energy projects.
  • Raising public awareness about the benefits of solar energy.

By addressing these areas, South Africa can continue to expand its solar energy capacity, contributing to a more sustainable and resilient energy future.

FAQs

What is the capacity of the De Aar Solar Power plant?

The De Aar Solar Power plant has a capacity of 85.26 MW.

Where is the Jasper Solar Energy Project located?

The Jasper Solar Energy Project is located in the Northern Cape, South Africa.

What technology does Kathu Solar Park use?

Kathu Solar Park uses Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) technology with parabolic troughs and molten salt for energy storage.

How much power can KaXu Solar One generate?

KaXu Solar One has a capacity of 100 MW.

When did Xina Solar One become operational?

Xina Solar One became operational in 2017.

What is the storage capability of Ilanga CSP 1?

Ilanga CSP 1 can store thermal energy and generate electricity for up to five hours after sunset.

What is the capacity of the Aurora-Rietvlei Solar Project?

The Aurora-Rietvlei Solar Project has a capacity of 122 MW.

When was Lesedi Solar Park commissioned?

Lesedi Solar Park was commissioned in 2014.

Where is the Mulilo Sonnedix Prieska PV plant located?

The Mulilo Sonnedix Prieska PV plant is located near Prieska in the Northern Cape.

What are the primary benefits of these solar farms?

These solar farms provide clean, renewable energy, reduce carbon emissions, and contribute to energy security and sustainability.

How do CSP and PV technologies differ?

CSP technology uses mirrors to concentrate sunlight and generate heat, which then produces electricity, often with thermal storage. PV technology directly converts sunlight into electricity using photovoltaic cells.

Why is the Northern Cape a preferred location for solar farms?

The Northern Cape has high solar irradiance and vast expanses of land, making it ideal for large-scale solar farms.

Conclusion

South Africa’s top 10 biggest solar farms are shining examples of the country’s commitment to renewable energy development. 

From the Northern Cape’s sun-drenched landscapes to the Eastern Cape’s windswept plains, these solar farms harness nature’s abundant resources to power homes, businesses, and industries. 

As South Africa continues prioritizing sustainability and reducing its carbon footprint, these solar farms will play an increasingly vital role in shaping the nation’s energy future.

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References

  • techcentral.co – Utility scale: 10 biggest solar projects in South Africa
  • list.solar – Largest solar power stations in South Africa

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Blessing Ukibe
Blessing Ukibe

Medical Student at Nnamdi Azikiwe University|Tech content expert at Silicon Africa Technology|Lover of fun books and fun fun ☺️

Articles: 132

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