26 June 2013 – Soitec, which is building a 44 MWp utility-scale concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) power plant in South Africa, says that the first students in its CPV technology training program have successfully completed the initial part of the curriculum. This CPV training program is the first one implemented in South Africa. Thanks to this initiative, students from the local community can acquire skills needed to work in the country’s growing solar industry.

The CPV training program was created by an agreement signed in 2011 by Soitec, the University of Cape Town and Northlink College, a nationally registered further education and training institution with a head office in Bellville.

As one of the successful companies selected by the South African ministry of energy at the end of its first independent power producers (IPP) bid, Soitec is building a 44 MWp utility-scale CPV power plant in Touwsrivier, near the Aquila private game reserve (Western Cape). Along with other projects currently under development in South Africa through the IPP program, Soitec’s project is creating a new workforce demand at the local level.

“With this CPV training program, our aim is to prepare applicants from the local community for employment during the construction, operation and maintenance phases of our Touwsrivier power plant,” Gaetan Borgers, executive vice president of Soitec solar division, says. “This training program is intended to open new career paths for South Africans as, according to the IPP program, 1,450 MW of photovoltaic power should be in operation by 2016.”

Funded by Soitec Solar RSA and DEG, a German investment and development corporation that finances private-sector investments in developing countries, the CPV training program is taking place at a facility within the town of Touwsrivier. It includes a basic course covering electricity, photovoltaics, power plants and CPV basics, facilitated by Northlink College lecturers from the Belhar campus, followed by a more advanced and specialised course on electricity and mechanics.

“Out of 300 applicants, 18 students started the basic course at the beginning of January 2013, after having passed the entry tests. All graduated in May and are now starting the second part of the CPV training program,” Borgers says.