SunEdison secures $185 million for South African project

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Global solar technology company SunEdison, via its South African affiliate, has secured R1.8 billion (US$185 million) in funding for the development of a 60 MW PV plant in South Africa.

The Boshof Solar Park will be located near Kimberley in South Africa’s Free State province and has been 75% funded by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), who backed SunEdison for the project on the strength of two other utiliy-scale developments the company have initiated in South Africa.

Boshof’s clean energy – once operational and connected to the grid in the fourth quarter of 2014 – will be distributed by national power utility Eskom and the Department of Energy, who have signed a 20-year PPA with the plant.

Boshof will also become the first PV project in South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPP) to be supplied with PV modules from a local, majority-owned module manufacturer – South African companies will hold 49% of the project, with SunEdison maintaining a 51% share.

"Access to a reliable source of energy is essential to addressing a wide range of development challenges, from producing food to educating students and building modern infrastructure," said Elizabeth Littlefield, OPIC’s CEO and president. "OPIC is pleased to be supporting a project that will provide a clean and reliable source of electricity and help stimulate economic development."

During its construction phase, the Boshof plant will create an estimated 280 jobs in the local community, while its ongoing operations are anticipated to sustain more than 1,000 jobs, with local manufacturers the main beneficiary of the plant’s presence. Indeed, SunEdison will manufacture its AP90 Single Axis trackers – to be used at the plant – nearby, and local procurement schemes are forecast to plough $67.9 million into the local economy.

"Helping improve developing economies by creating jobs is one of the many ways our company is transforming lives through innovation," said SunEdison’s VP and managing director for South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, Pashupathy Gopalan. "Boshof is a landmark project that will benefit the entire South African economy as it contributes to energy security and creates green jobs throughout the value chain."

Community benefits

SunEdison’s aforementioned other PV projects in South Africa are located in Limpopo province and boast a combined solar capacity of 58 MW. As with Boshof, these two projects – Soutpan and Witkop – rely on local contractors, suppliers and manufacturers, creating hundreds of job opportunities and supporting the local economy.

Acting principle officer for South Africa’s Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF), Joelene Moodley, praised SunEdison’s ongoing commitment to developing the country’s solar industry: "We are increasing investment with SunEdison because we view the Boshof project as a secure investment for our members and pensioners. This is why we feel comfortable nearly doubling our investment in SunEdison’s South African projects by R312 million ($30.8 million) for the Boshof Solar Park.

"We believe this is a safe place for us to invest and the project is aligned with GEPF’s mandate to back infrastructure projects that promote economic growth and job creation," added Moodley.

SunEdison’s Gopalan added: "SunEdison has extensive experience in delivering reliable and economical solar energy solutions for our customers around the world, in both the public and the private sector. We are using that experience and our innovative approach to technology and business development to create new markets. Being part of this historical milestone for South Africa is very rewarding."