Solar park gets R1.8 billion in funding
Global solar energy services and technology provider SunEdison Inc., through its South African affiliate, recently announced it had secured R1.8 billion (U.S. $185 million) in foreign debt funding from the Overseas Private Investment Corp. (OPIC). This amounts to 75 percent of the R2.4 billion project cost for the Boshof Solar Park Project, located in South Africa's Free State province near Kimberley.
Electricity generated by Boshof, with an installed capacity of 60MW AC, will feed into the South African grid, under the terms of a 20-year power purchase and implementation agreement signed with national power utility Eskom and the Department of Energy. The plant is scheduled to begin generating electricity in the fourth quarter of 2014.
Boshof is the first project in South Africa's Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPP) to be supplied by a local South African majority-owned photovoltaic (PV) module manufacturer. SunEdison will maintain a 51 percent ownership stake in the project, with South African companies holding the remaining 49 percent.
Support for local economy and community
“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 OPIC President and CEO Elizabeth Littlefield. “OPIC is pleased to be supporting a project that will provide a clean and reliable source of electricity and help stimulate economic development.”
The Boshof project is expected to create approximately 280 jobs during its construction and operational phases, and through the use of local sub-contractors the project is expected to support over 1,000 jobs. Approximately 50 percent of the project's total value will go to South African manufacturers supplying local components and South Africa service providers including the SunEdison AP90 Single Axis trackers that will be locally manufactured for the project. Total procurement from black economic empowered entities is estimated at R685 million (U.S. $67.9 million).
“Helping improve developing economies by creating jobs is one of the many ways our company is transforming lives through innovation,” said Pashupathy Gopalan, SunEdison vice president and managing director for South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. “Boshof is a landmark project which will benefit the entire South African economy as it contributes to energy security and creates green jobs throughout the value chain.”
Over R200 million (U.S. $19.7 million) is set aside for projects that will transform the community by improving access to education and healthcare, supporting enterprise development and other projects to improve the quality of life for residents throughout the Free State and Northern Cape.
Construction has begun on two other utility-scale projects developed by SunEdison in Limpopo province, Soutpan and Witkop, which together total 58MW contracted capacity. As with Boshof, these projects rely on local subcontractors to help improve the overall economy and create employment opportunities.
All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.