Everyone knows the potential solar power holds for providing the world’s energy, and it comes as no surprise that there are massive solar projects such as the Desertec being developed. Not wanting to be left out in the cold, South Africa just unveiled their very own large-scale solar project – a 5GW solar field. More than a mere solar array, the project will see the creation of the world’s biggest solar plant – something we thought,  just yesterday, would be built in the US with the Blythe Solar Project (1GW).

Currently, South Africa is a coal-heavy country, making greener strides by investing in renewable energy technology such as wind turbines. But despite their efforts, it remains that a sixth of the population still lacks access to electricity. With this fact in mind, the $29.25 billion project could potentially generate a tenth of the country’s energy needs while reducing their carbon emissions.

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The massive project would see solar panels installed across the Northern Cape province, which is one of the sunniest regions in the world. Unlike the Desertec Project which would create a large solar field in the Sahara Desert, the South African Solar Field would be more efficient, particularly given the fact that the Desertec would be subjected to a large number of sandstorms, potentially damaging the photovoltaic technology.

The solar park is expected to be ready by the end 2012 – in its first stage it will generate about 1GW of electricity, with plans of an increase to 5GW. Up until now, about 9,000 hectares of land have been earmarked for the park and the “solar corridor” is currently exploring additional sites for expansion.

“In South Africa over 90% of our power comes from the burning of coal and we need to reduce this because of our international obligations on climate change,”said Jonathan de Vries, the project manager. “If this proves to be cost competitive with coal and nuclear, the government will roll out more solar parks. This is a very bold attempt.”

De Vries added, “Solar power isn’t a panacea that will cure-all but it’s a part of the solution, and a very important part. There are zones in the world that are ideally suited to it, often those with low population density.”

Via The Guardian