Sonnedix connects 86 MW South African solar PV plant

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Sonnedix, an independent power producer (IPP) majority owned by institutional investors advised by J.P. Morgan Asset Management, has this week connected an 86 MW solar PV plant in South Africa.

The Mulilo Sonnedix Prieska PV project covers 125 hectares and is located in the country’s Northern Cape. The plant’s development included the input and expertise of juwi, which acted as EPC, as well as BYD, ABB and PiA Solar – each of which were sub-contractors and suppliers on the project.

The completion of the ground mounted solar farm caps an intense period of clean energy investment for Sonnedix, which has invested in excess of €600 million in new power assets over the past 12 months.

"This PV plant is the largest in the history of Sonnedix, and our first in Africa," said Sonnedix CEO Andreas Mustad, speaking at the plant’s official unveiling ceremony that was also attended by Prieska mayor Howard Tshume and various players in the renewable energy sector.

"This plant will enable small businesses to emerge – thank you for choosing this area to develop our society," said the mayor.

Sonnedix’s CEO also added that the completion of the construction phase merely marks the beginning of the company’s involvement in the region. “We will be operating this plant for a minimum of 20 years with a local team, the local community, our local partners, and bring continued economic development and opportunities for the local community and businesses in the region,” Mustad said.

juwi South Africa acted as EPC for the installation, and the company’s MD Greg Austin added that the project has already received positive feedback from national utility Eskom’s Grid Access Unit in relation to juwi’s grid code compliance planning and execution. “Now we look forward to delivering the same standard of excellence during the O&M phase,” Austin said.

The 86 MW solar plant is located 50 km southwest of the city of Prieska, and can meet the power needs of 40,000 local households. Construction lasted 14 months, during which time 1,720 people were employed – over half of whom hailed from the surrounding area. "The plant has injected much-needed revenue into local businesses and also created additional indirect employment in the region," said Johnny Cullum, CEO of Mulilo, which owns the plant.

Mulilo is to work with Sonnedix on further Northern Cape projects, the two companies confirmed, building upon a growing thirst for solar energy in South Africa. Renewable energy is a key means of attracting foreign investment into the country, with foreign funding of the REIPP program equivalent to 86% of the total foreign direct investment into South Africa since 2014.