29.11.2016 / Press releases, Press, South Africa

86MW Prieska solar PV plant earns Grid Access Unit’s praise

The 86MW Mulilo-Sonnedix-Prieska PV project, a 125 hectare solar PV project valued at R1.4 billion was completed on schedule, on budget and reached full grid code compliance in good time for Commercial Operation.

“This is the biggest solar PV EPC project we have ever delivered in such a remote location. We have now entered the Operations and Maintenance phase and look forward to ensuring the guaranteed performance on behalf of the owners,“ said Greg Austin, MD of juwi Renewable Energies of the 14-month intensive project, developed on a remote site 50km south-west of Prieska in the Northern Cape.

“We have received excellent feedback from Eskom’s Grid Access Unit and NERSA’s RETEC regarding our grid code compliance planning and execution.“ 

The energy from the project, which is capable of powering 86 000 homes, is believed to be the first PV project under the REIPP to gain grid code compliance prior to reaching Commercial Operation.

 “Although the Northern Cape is one of the best irradiation areas in the world and has enormous future energy generation potential, the grid connection here and elsewhere in the country is the issue that everyone’s grappling with.  You can’t export power without a suitable grid, and hence the limitations of the grid is an inhibitor which the Department of Energy as well as all industry stakeholders should be addressing more urgently,“ added Austin.

“This is the biggest solar PV EPC project we have ever delivered in such a remote location. We have now entered the Operations and Maintenance phase and look forward to ensuring the guaranteed performance on behalf of the owners,“ said Greg Austin, MD of juwi.

“O&M is a juwi core business.  We understand that peace of mind for the investors, lenders and owners over the twenty-year life span of a project is important, enabling them to achieve their returns on investment.  Being the EPC partner on this project together now as O&M operator, we ensure that our O&M team is involved from the initial design: for example, selecting communications technology that gives the optimal interfaces between key hardware such as solar panels, inverters and transformers.  O&M is a business model that de-risks the project for the owners.  

We ensure a plannable revenue model and margins on the back of long-term contracts and we have an excellent international track record with local competency.  Our rigorous 24/7 monitoring reduces the risk for the owners and investors.  We build in redundancy into our system, with plant monitoring happening on site, in South Africa and in Germany. The financial contracts underpinning the projects demands 99% availability, so it’s imperative we solve issues immediately,“ said Austin, prior to visiting Prieska for the official launch of the project. 

“The local community benefits in various ways from such a project.  Quebar Electrical & Civil Construction, was a small local business established to provide the quality checks on 275 000 modules, and now provide the O&M service on sight.   Through the project period, 1720 people were employed, of which 911 came from local communities, which has a significant economic development impact “

According to Austin, these big projects are always an opportunity for continuous learning and improvement. “We created many employment and business opportunities in an extremely poor community, and with every project we gain further insight into the socio-economic development aspects. Industrial relations management and upskilling of labour for long-term community benefit is always a priority. We have 500MW in our short-term pipeline, offering significant job creation and a positive economic impact to local communities.“


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