Acciona switches on 94 MW South Africa PV plant

The energy arm of Spanish infrastructure company Acciona has connected a 94.3 MW solar farm to the grid in South Africa – the single-largest project in the company’s history.

Acciona Energia owns a majority stake in the Sishen solar plant, which is the company’s first foray into the burgeoning South African solar market.

Located in the municipality of Dibeng in the Northern Cape province, this 250 hectare solar park boasts 319,600 modules and features 470 solar trackers.

State-owned utility Eskom has signed a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with the plant, which was approved by the South African Energy Department in the second round of the country’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP).

"The start-up of Sishen is a major milestone for us, as it is the biggest PV plant built by our company in the world, and our first renewable facility in South Africa – a country in which we expect to increase our presence considerably," said Acciona Energia’s chief executive Rafael Mateo.

"We are pleased to be contributing to compliance with South Africa’s objectives in achieving a more sustainable energy system, creating jobs and added value in the country in the process."

The company’s 51% stake in the Sishen plant makes it the majority shareholder, with local infrastructure firm Aveng the second-largest shareholder with 29%. Both Soul City Broad-Based Empowerment Company, and community development organization Local Community Trust hold 10% stakes in the project. During the construction phase of the project, more than 1,000 jobs were created.

South Africa’s REIPPPP has a remit to award PPAs to more than 3.7 GW of renewable energy projects between now and the end of 2016. The fifth tender round for the program is expected to be launched early next year.

Acciona was heavily involved in bidding on the second round, the company winning the contract for the Sishen plant and an additional 138 MW wind farm in Western Cape, which is currently under construction.