Amazon Web Services’ first solar PV plant in South Africa has been connected to the grid, adding more renewable energy to the country’s energy mix.
The 10MW solar project is a collaboration between Amazon and South African power developer SOLA which required approval from NERSA as a wheeling agreement. In this way Amazon Web Services data centres in the country can be considered as running on clean energy.
Located in the Northern Cape the solar plant is expected to generate up to 28,000MWh of energy annually, contributing to South Africa’s clean energy goals.
The project is a single-axis tracking plant consisting of more than 24,000 bifacial solar modules covering 20 hectares. The project will result in an estimated 25,000 tons of carbon emissions avoided annually, equivalent to removing 5,400 internal combustion vehicles from the road in a year.
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Nat Sahlstrom, AWS Energy Director: “Amazon is committed to working with governments and utility suppliers around the world to help bring more new renewable energy projects online and we’re honored to be able to work with the Department of Minerals and Energy, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) and Eskom to help deliver a new model for renewable energy generation in South Africa.
“This project brings Amazon closer to achieving net-zero carbon by 2040 and powering our operations with 100% renewable energy, a commitment we’re on path to achieve five years early by 2025,” he explained.
Renewable energy projects lead to jobs
The solar project is majority-owned by black women and operated by a fully South African-owned company, according to project developer SOLA. Metha Mhlarhi, Mahlako Finance Services Executive Director and Co-Founder, pointed out that historically black women have been critically under-represented in South Africa’s infrastructure, agriculture and utility ownership. “Energy projects that enable black investment are our surest way to a just transition to renewable energy,” explained Mhlarhi.
The project created 167 jobs during construction, 63% from the local surrounding area. It will sustain permanent jobs for its lifetime in electrical maintenance, operation and security. Unused materials from construction, including pallets and electrical cable drums, were donated to local furniture businesses and special skills schools to support small, medium and micro enterprises.
Dom Wills, SOLA Group CEO: “It’s important that while we’re building renewable energy capacity in South Africa that we’re also developing South African companies and skills. SOLA is committed to transforming South Africa through clean energy and this project marks a step change in scale.”
Amazon co-founded The Climate Pledge in 2019 — a commitment to be net zero carbon across all global operations by 2040, 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement. The company is on a path to powering operations with 100 percent renewable energy by 2025 — five years ahead of its original target of 2030.
In 2020, when Amazon announced plans to build a solar plant in South Africa, it became the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy, reaching 65% renewable energy across its business, with a portfolio including 234 global renewable energy projects totaling over 10 GW of renewable capacity globally.