8 August 2013 – Construction has begun on two solar power plants in the towns of Aurora and Vredendal in the Western Cape. With an installed capacity of 10.5 MWp each, the solar power plants will ease the burden on the national energy supply grid.

Solairedirect Southern Africa, the local subsidiary of the Solairedirect group, has confirmed construction is well underway on two solar photovoltaic (PV) power plants following the completion of the project financing process in early June 2013. The projects  were successfully bid by Solairedirect in the second round of the South African government’s renewable energy independent power producer programme (REIPPP) after the company partnered with investment partners Old Mutual and the J&J group in funding the equity required; and secured the debt finance through Rand Merchant Bank.
 
The REIPPP is a complex process where the South African government invites bids from diverse players in the renewable energy sector, including solar PV, concentrated solar, wind and hydro. “We are naturally very proud that we have reached financial close for both projects and have now completed the initial stages of the construction phase," managing director of Solaire Direct Southern Africa, Ryan Hammond, says. “We are now preparing for the third bid submission of the REIPPP, and of course hope to be successful once again.”

Hammond believes that these two projects had the lowest tariffs of any solar PV projects bid in round two and is quick to add that both projects will use 100% locally produced solar PV modules. “Our successful bids in Round two dispel the notion that projects cannot have a high local content and be cost competitive.”

Both projects will use solar PV modules produced in Bellville, Cape Town, by sister company Solairedirect Technologies. “In line with breaking ground on these projects and the recently announced three year manufacturing agreement with tier one solar PV module manufacturer, Renesola; expansion plans at the production facility are already underway, and will see production capacity double to approximately 80 MWp per annum,” Hammond says.

“The round three bid date is around the corner and the competition is heating up,” Stéphane Jallet, managing director of the Solairedirect group, says. “There are many projects that are ready to be bid and our experience leads us to expect that only those who manage all aspects of their cost and present a competitive Economic Development proposal will be in with a chance.”