By Ramotswedi Rammutla
Mahikeng: Solar power has shown that technological development and cultivation of clean energy has both environmental and economical benefits which may contribute to overall food security. The new normal of power cuts and load shedding by Eskom from an on demand power grid continues to reveal opportunities both in solar farming or use of solar power in agriculture in general.
The industry has gained traction with the inclusion of independent power producers to the grid, which opens up the power sector to new entrants and entrepreneur. The Northern Cape remains one of the leaders in the sector, as most of the biggest solar producers are based in that province. The advantages being the higher latitude and temperature variation they have. Eskom has been mandated to add 5.7 GW of solar power to the grid by 2030 to increase the 1.5 GW currently in use in South Africa.
Renewable energy can be used in water pumping, green house heating, grain and crop drying and space heating. These applications of solar energy in farms, have immensely resulted in better and improved farming methods and even farming mechanization. Photovoltaic (PV) pumping system may reduce cost in irrigation needs and water in protected areas as well as communal water schemes and may increase productivity and service delivery to communities in rural areas. The systems offer many benefits and reliability.
The banking sector has also seen the great growth in the industry and is willing to finance solar installations. According to the First National Bank FNB; “Solar power has proven itself as an efficient option for homes across South Africa. But what about solar power as a viable option for your business? And what are the considerations? As a firm believer in the future prospects of solar power for businesses and homes alike, FNB has included energy solutions to their property financing offering, to not only enhance your productivity but increase the value of your property”.
Kathu Solar Park is one of the largest in South Africa and generates 100MW of power. It was build from 2016 and started operating in 2019. The park cost R12 billion. The Jasper Solar Power Project which produces 96MW and is able to power over 80000 homes. They also have a 20 year contract with Eskom.
The investment injections in solar power are high but when completed and operational they have great returns; from parks to single or clustered installations which can be of use to either private sector or public sector stakeholders. Making solar farming one of the future businesses prospects that need action now to generate employment and render needed power capacity to the grid.