29.11.2016 / Press releases, Press, South Africa

Mulilo Sonnedix Prieska PV project inauguration celebrates its impact in the Northern Cape

Ready to cut the ribbon at the inauguration of the Mulilo Sonnedix Prieska PV project pictured left-right: Chris Aberdein (Mulilo), John Cullum (Mulilo), Greg Austin (juwi), Chester Williams, Franck Constant (Sonnedix), Prieska Mayor Howard Tshume, Andreas Mustad (Sonnedix), Taniya Krishna (Women in Power), Jeanne-Marie Fatti (Standard Bank), Jan Malan (Nedbank)

The 86MW Mulilo Sonnedix Prieska PV project, one of the largest in Southern Africa measuring 125 hectares, was officially inaugurated in the Northern Cape at a series of formal events attended by major players in the renewables energy sector. Attendees celebrated the successful completion of the project and its significant Socio-Economic Development (SED) impact in the region, which has empowered local communities with significant skills, investment and employment.

The plant was officially opened by Sonnedix CEO Andreas Mustad and South African developers Mulilo in the presence of Prieska Mayor Howard Tshume, who thanked Sonnedix and Mulilo on behalf of the Siyathemba municipality for investing in education and local business: “This plant will enable small businesses to emerge – thank you for choosing this area to develop our society.”

The opening was honoured with the presence of all the project partners (Mulilo, Women in Power, Nedbank and Standard Bank – Facility agent, Fieldstone, Norton Rose Fulbright and Arup – Advisors) and all of the companies involved in the plant construction process, including the EPC Contractor juwi, their main sub-contractors and suppliers (PiA Solar, ABB, BYD).

The inauguration caps a productive period for Sonnedix, with in excess of EUR 600 million invested in new assets in the past 12 months. “This photovoltaic plant is the largest in the history of Sonnedix, and our first in Africa” said Andreas Mustad, CEO of Sonnedix. “The construction phase is complete, yet this is a long term project. We will be operating this plant for a minimum of 20 years with a local team, the local community, our local partners, and bring continued economic development and opportunities for the local community and businesses in the region.”

“We completed the project on time and within budget, and we received excellent feedback from Eskom’s Grid Access Unit and NERSA’s RETEC regarding our grid code compliance planning and execution. Now we look forward to delivering the same standard of excellence during the operations and maintenance phase,” commented juwi South Africa MD Greg Austin.

"We look forward to delivering the same standard of excellence during the operations and maintenance phase,” said Greg Austin, juwi South Africa MD.

Situated 50km South-West of Prieska, the PV farm is capable of powering 40 000 homes through the Eskom grid and employed 1720 people through the 14-month construction period, of which 911 came from local communities. “The project required over 1.6 million man-hours to build, out of which over half were locally sourced,” said Johnny Cullum, CEO of Mulilo. “It has injected much-needed revenue into local businesses and also created additional indirect employment in the region.”

This picture is being replicated across the country. Renewable energy is a crucial source of foreign direct investment into the country, with foreign investment into REIPPs equivalent to 86% of the total FDI attracted into South Africa in 2014. 

This is significant given the role Sonnedix sees itself playing in Africa: “We have a long term view and are committed to increasing our presence in South Africa in the years to come. Throughout all of our developments, we remain dedicated to supporting local communities as much as possible,” comments Franck Constant, Executive Vice President of Sonnedix. “We have proven that together with our partners, we can make things happen in South Africa.” 

Sonnedix and Mulilo have indicated their commitment to the Northern Cape and have prioritized community investment during both the construction phase and in the long-term operations and maintenance. Further to a first direct contribution to the local community back in December 2015, the Mulilo Sonnedix Prieska Solar PV plant took the opportunity of the inauguration to provide a financial contribution to the Prieska Guardian Angels school and its 150 pupils, helping to finance its comprehensive rehabilitation.

As guest speaker, ex-Springbok, 1995 world rugby champion and legend Chester Williams delivered a message of optimism sharing his own story of teamwork and recognizing the impact the project has had on the people of the region: “This solar PV plant represents much more than a technological achievement – It has assisted impoverished communities and given them hope.”

Local Nama dancers added to the festivities while Prieska primary school pupils handed over drawings to the dignitaries, of how they envisaged solar power affecting their lives in the future.

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