South Africa is definitely in the spotlight and shows once again with the opening in Sunninghill (Johannesburg), the first photovoltaic power plant in the country with a capacity of 400 kilowatts peak.

This “showcase project” is presented at the 17th United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP17) to be held from November 28 to December 9, 2011 in Durban.

This is a central cover of 180 parking spaces, conducted in the parking lot of the head office of Eskom, the national power. It will produce 675 MWh per year and will provide 5% of energy needs of Eskom.

The inauguration of this facility on November 25 was the start of the great plan of development of renewable energy which has set South Africa, a country where coal is currently the dominant energy.

The solar complex was developed by the joint venture including Energy Division of Guma Group and the French company Coruscant where two shareholders are committed to develop larger scale other photovoltaic projects in the country.

“We are very proud of this first project is at the forefront of our ambition in the field of renewable energy,” said Robert Matana Gumede, CEO of Guma group. “Photovoltaics is a method of energy production growth. This project will be the flagship of our strategy of producing non-polluting energy.”

The engineering and expertise of photovoltaic shade structures were made by Coruscant, while the construction was awarded to local companies. Equipment, including 2600 m2 of photovoltaic modules (produced by Tenesol, a subsidiary of Total) and support structures were manufactured in South Africa. The inverters are supplied on site by the French company Schneider Electric.

Finally, 80% of the total budget of 1.2 million euros has been spent locally, in accordance with the target set by the South African government to develop on-site activities related to renewable energy.

“We are very pleased that the first project in South Africa is a shade house photovoltaic parking, this validates the relevance of energy production without consumption of land and no impact on the environment,” said Thierry Mueth CEO Coruscant. “The French company Coruscant has extensive experience in the production of solar energy. A pioneer of photovoltaic shade structures in France, their technical input has been invaluable, “concluded the Director of the Division of Energy Guma Group, Deon van der Walt.

While this is laudable initiative aimed at, one can simply regret that South Africa is only beginning to turn to this renewable energy, from which it could benefit on a large scale.

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