Last year when South Africa announced the South African Renewable Initiative and its plans to build 4 gigawatts of renewable energy it looked globally for companies to develop projects on its lands. Now some of those projects are getting underway. SunEdison has two of those projects and recently closed financing on them allowing the company to move forward on building them.
In all, the company, a subsidiary of MEMC Electronic Materials, raised $314 million or 2.6 billion rands to support the 30 megawatt AC Witkop Solar Park and 28 megawatt AC Soutpan Solar Park. When completed they will be the first utility scale solar projects to in Limpopo Province.
The funds for the project were raised in partnership with Chint Solar, the Public Investment Corporation, and the Kurisani Youth Development Trust. The long-term debt and equity financing for the projects comes from Standard Bank and Futuregrowth Asset Management. Once completed Eskom, South Africa’s national utility, will purchase the power produced through a 20-year power purchase agreement.
While these are SunEdison’s first projects in South Africa, there could be more. “We are looking to expand in South Africa but this is our first project and the only announced project,” said SunEdison spokesperson Dawn Brister.
Chint Solar will supply the project. Construction on both projects is slated to begin in January of 2013, according to SunEdison. With the Soutpan Solar Park coming online in January 2014 and the Witkop Solar Park coming online in April that year. The completed projects will be monitored by SunEdison’s Renewable Operations Center (ROC) which will sue the SunEdison Environmental & Energy Data System (SEEDS) to maximize the farms’ output by tracking its actual performance against its predicted output, the company said.
While SunEdison hasn’t announced other projects in the region it is interested in it. “The African market remains interesting and we are exploring it but as a public company there's nothing we can go into specifics on at this time,” Brister said. While South Africa has been the country that’s made the biggest announcement, other countries, like Namibia are also adding in renewables, particularly solar to take advantage of the continent’s sunny regions.