Droogfontein solar power will be the first solar plant to supply Eskom with power in the Kimberley area; and one of the first solar projects to export power in South Africa. “Not only are we on track, but we expect to be fully operational prior to the planned commercial operation date in April 2014,” Mark Pickering, general manager of Droogfontein Solar Power, says.

The export of power to the Eskom grid was scheduled to start on 18 November 2013. Once the commissioning of the plant begins, a small amount of electricity will be exported to the grid to check the equipment’s reliability. If no problems are encountered and the reliability is verified, the power from the inverter area will continue to flow to the Eskom grid. Each inverter area produces approximately 2.4 MW peak power. It is anticipated that six of the 19 inverter areas will be commissioned by the end of this year, resulting in approximately 14.4 MW of peak power being supplied to Eskom prior to the December-January construction holiday.

There has had to be close coordination between the project team and Eskom to ensure all the relevant experts have been available for the commissioning of the high voltage substation and the solar power field. “The process will also provide employees further opportunity to gain knowledge and skills related to a renewable energy power plant, from general workers all the way up to the project management team,” Pickering says.