Solea Renewables, Johannesburg, South Africa, has signed a turnkey contract with Cronimet Energy SA (CESA) to deliver the first ever off-grid, utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) system in Southern Africa to a Limpopo province chrome mine. The 1-megawatt (MW) plant will produce approximately 1.8 GWh of electricity per year and is expected to reduce the mine’s daytime diesel dependency for the next 20 to 30 years.

                The project is in line with national plans to increase power supplies from independent producers. It also dovetails with South Africa’s stated objective to increase the percentage of renewable energy among the country’s total power mix. The fully integrated, turnkey PV system designed, engineered and constructed by Solea Renewables will convert the sun’s energy into alternating current electricity by using SMA central inverters and 4,170 high-efficiency, 240-watt polycrystalline PV panels.

                Vusi Mhlanzi, director of Solea Renewables, said, “While the global demand for South African coal, platinum, palladium and chromium increases, mines and other industrial consumers face power supply constraints due to capacity challenges at [power utility] Eskom. The turnkey delivery of our PV plants will not only benefit end-users, but it will in turn help reduce the ever present and increasing energy demand Eskom faces.”

                Solea Renewables is an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor specializing in the field of utility-scale PV power plants. Cronimet Energy SA is a renewable-energy company that seeks to finance and operate commercial PV installation on behalf of mining and other industrial companies that enter into 20 to 30 year power purchase agreements.

                The photovoltaic plant will be constructed on Cronimet Energy SA’s site in Thabazimbi, Limpopo. Groundbreaking took place in mid-August; construction is currently under way and is expected to be completed by late October 2012.

                Solea Renewables said its small- and medium-sized utility-scale PV plants are designed to offer mining and other industrial companies a cost-effective grid independent complement to traditional diesel generators. “While PV power is not yet designed to make grid connection, or back-up power systems obsolete, it will definitely supplement the electricity mix by reducing daytime diesel consumption and grid dependency while securing users with a natural long-term hedge against all rising costs of power,” said Mhlanzi.

                “A lot still needs to be done in the green energy space in Southern Africa. Our aim is to grow the supply of green energy provisions and become the leading photovoltaic engineering, procurement and construction contractor in Southern Africa,” said Mhlanzi.