The 66 megawatt solar photovoltaic plant (PV) project site in Lephalale, Limpopo, is a ray of light in the country’s efforts to resolve the energy challenge.
Communications Minister Faith Muthambi visited the project situated about 5km east from South Africa’s border with Botswana before she officially opened the National Imbizo Focus Week at the nearby village of Ga-Seleka on Monday.
The project is one of many highlighted by President Jacob Zuma in the Nine-Point Plan, which seeks to ignite growth and create jobs by focusing on resolving the energy challenge.
Minister Muthambi said the Imbizo Focus Week will concentrate on fleshing out details of the Nine-Point Plan.
“Today marks the start of the National Imbizo Focus Week, which is a critical platform for government to reach out to various communities throughout the country, and listen to their concerns and problems.
“This week, the focus will be on the Nine-Point Plan to grow the South African economy and create jobs… The energy challenge is the top priority of the Nine-Point Plan announced by President Zuma earlier this year… This is indeed the ‘Year of Unity in Action’ with the private sector to advance economic freedom,” she said.
Minister Muthambi, who was accompanied by the District Mayor of Waterberg, Rosinah Mogotlane, and Lephalale Mayor Jack Maeko, said she was happy to hear that more than 200 people have been employed at the solar plant.
“The project management told us they are going to employ more people in January next year. The Nine-Point Plan has priority interventions that are job drivers and create employment by unlocking the potential of small businesses, cooperatives, township and rural enterprises.
“There are interventions that help the economy to grow such as building a good transport network in the country. Other interventions that are aimed at solving the challenges we face include ensuring a good energy supply,” she said.
The Nine-Point Plan’s chief focus is on resolving the energy challenge. It also seeks to revitalise agriculture and the agro-processing value chain.
It will also advance beneficiation in the country’s mineral wealth and ensure a more effective implementation of the Industrial Policy Action Plan.
The plan encourages private sector investment, moderating workplace conflict, unlocking the potential of SMMEs, cooperatives, township and rural enterprises and boosting the role of state owned companies.
It also focuses on ICT infrastructure and broadband roll-out, water, sanitation and transport infrastructure as well as Operation Phakisa aimed growing the ocean economy and other sectors.
The CEO of Tom Burke Solar Park, Lamberto Dai Pra, said they have invested R850 million in the project, with more than half a million solar panels that will supply power to about 40 000 South African families.
“We are glad to announce that we have already created jobs for 260 people and we are planning to employ more people next year. This is a massive project… The total area is 148 hectares. Our expected commissioning is February next year, while our planned capacity is 66 megawatts.
“The lifespan of our solar panels is 20 years and the connection to the Eskom grid will be in the Eskom 132kV/22kV station through a step-up substation located here, which forms part of the project site.
“There will be no need to build further power lines traversing other properties or to acquire servitude rights or further authorisations,” he said.
Some of the communities which will benefit from the project are Ga-Seleka, Tlapeng, Rietfontein, Mothlasedi, Moong, Morwe, Botshabelo, Madibaneng and Letlora.
Mayor Maeko said 99% of the people working at the project are local residents. Local entrepreneurs are also going to benefit from the project.
“As a municipality, we want our people to benefit from all the economic development happening in their area.”
Headman Phetogo Seleka said he was happy to witness government initiatives that improve the lives of his people.
“Things are happening here. Government is also expanding our local main road, thus creating jobs for the unemployed… I’m so excited to see all these developments taking place in my area,” he said.
Local resident Collins Maeteletja said: “With all these developments in the whole of Lephalale, the challenge now is on our youth to be educated because they won’t benefit if they are not educated but people from far will come and take over all these opportunities.”
National Imbizo Focus Week
The National Imbizo Focus Week will run from 30 November to 6 December 2015.
The week is being held under the theme ‘Together we move South Africa forward’.
Izimbizo are two-way unmediated and interactive information sharing platforms. They are a dialogue between government and the people, giving credence to a participatory democracy.
Update: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that Tom Burke Solar Park had invested R850 billion in the project. This figure was queried with Enel, the company which owns 60% of project company Tobivox, and it confirmed that the actual investment was R850 million.