Eskom could build six solar farms every year with the money it blows on diesel

Eskom can build the largest solar farm in South Africa six times over with its annual diesel budget of R29 billion. By the beginning of January, it had already spent R25 billion.

This is a significant sum of money being used to run Eskom’s peaking power stations almost around the clock to limit the severity of load-shedding.

If Eskom were to spend this budget on renewable energy projects, it could build numerous large solar power farms in South Africa every year.

The Solar Capital De Aar Project in the Northern Cape is the largest solar farm in South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. It has a peak generating capacity of 175MW.

Its project site spans 473 hectares of a 2,674-hectare farm and has more than half a million modules that convert sunlight into power. It generates enough electricity to power 75,000 houses annually.

It was built in two stages, the first of which was finished in August 2014 and provided 85.26MW of producing capacity.

A second phase, which provided an additional 90MW of power, was completed less than two years later.

The project was completed in 28 months at a total cost of R4.8 billion. Using Eskom’s diesel budget could build six of these farms every single year.

This would add 1,050 MW of generation capacity to the grid.

The Solar Capital De Aar Project is the biggest solar farm in South Africa, with a combined output of 175MW across two phases

However, solar power is intermittent as it is highly dependent on the weather, so extensive battery systems can accompany large projects to enable them to have a more consistent output.

Even then, if Eskom were to use its diesel budget on a solar facility with a farm and batteries, it would be able to build the largest solar battery facility in the country one and a half times.

South Africa’s biggest solar battery storage system started supplying electricity to the national grid last year, contributing more power than the last unit at Komati Power Station.

Scatec ASA built the plant with funding of around R18.65 billion from lenders, including Standard Bank as lead arranger and British International Investment (BII).

Multiple solar plants with a combined 540 MW capacity form the heart of this facility, alongside a battery system boasting 225 MW output.

The battery has a 1,140 MWh capacity and can consistently deliver 150 MW of dispatchable power year-round between 5 am and 9:30 pm.

That is around 30 MW more output than the Komati Power Station’s last unit was producing when Eskom decommissioned the 61-year-old plant in October 2022.

MyBroadband reported that Scatec is selling electricity from the facility to Eskom under a 20-year power purchase agreement.

The company said the project was one of the world’s first and largest hybrid solar and battery storage facilities.

This article was first published by Daily Investor and is reproduced with permission.

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Eskom could build six solar farms every year with the money it blows on diesel