South Africa is a historically coal-hungry nation, producing around 225 million tonnes of the stuff each year. But just two years ago, government leaders pledged to invest an incredible $5.4 billion in renewable energy, and the products of that investment are taking shape. The Jasper PV Project in Kimberly, South Africa, became fully operational in October, and produces enough power to serve an impressive 80,000 homes. It’s now the largest solar power plant in Africa. The better news? It’s soon to be eclipsed by an even bigger facility nearby.
The Jasper PV Project has a rated capacity of 96 megawatts, and will produce 180,000 megawatt-hours of clean energy each year—enough to power 80,000 homes with power purchased by Eksom, a local public utility. The project was developed by a consortium led by Solar Reserve, who in addition to Jasper also constructed the adjacent 75 MW Lesedi Power Project, and are at work on the 100 MW Redstone Concentrated Solar Power Tower project.
Not only are these projects a huge step towards South Africa’s efforts to have 1,400 MW of renewable energy by 2016, but they also serve as a significant economic boon. According to Treehugger, the Jasper PV Project provided one million hours of paid work during construction, and peaked with over 800 on-site construction jobs. Funding for Jasper came from both local and international sources—including Google, who have, to date, committed $1.5 billion to the development of clean energy wind and solar projects internationally.
In South Africa, these large scale renewable energy projects are particularly pertinent, not just in reducing the nation’s coal dependence, but also in bolstering the grid to prevent power shortages, which have caused rolling blackouts in the country.