Mining company Palaborwa is building a massive solar power plant

Palabora Mining Company (PMC) has signed a renewable energy agreement with local independent power producer (IPP) Mzansi Energy Consortium to develop a 132 MWp solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant and battery energy storage system.

According to a statement, once deployed, the solar power plant will be one of the largest private IPP initiatives in South Africa, providing the mine with security of electricity supply and significant cost savings, while creating jobs in Limpopo.

The plant, called Marula Green Power, will be able to store 310 MWh of electricity and will be deployed in two stages. The first stage will be the construction phase and the second the operation and maintenance phase.

The project is expected to reach financial close in the second quarter of 2023 and begin operations in the second quarter of 2024, although current timelines are preliminary and subject to change depending on the results of the detailed feasibility study.

Wessel Wessels, CEO of Journey2Green, a founding partner of Mzansi Energy, says a long-term power purchase agreement will be finalized between the parties upon completion of the detailed feasibility study in six to eight months from now. October 2022 to the end of May 2023.

“Mzansi Energy will design, finance, install, operate and maintain the plant for 12 years. The plant will be based in the municipal jurisdiction of Ba-Phalaborwa, Limpopo, just outside the township of Namakgale, and will be approximately 20 km from the mine. The location is strategically chosen to allow direct supply to the mine without connection to the Eskom grid,” explains Wessels.

Mzansi Energy provides cost-effective renewable energy solutions to commercial customers and end users.

According to Mzansi Energy, the project is a step towards helping South Africa meet its electricity challenges, with the Marula Green Power plant expected to make a significant contribution to Eskom’s Just Energy Transition (JET).

The JET The initiative was established in 2020 and has made significant progress in advancing the evolution of the transition to a cleaner and greener energy future in South Africa, according to Eskom.

Mzansi Energy says it has partnered with the local traditional authority in accordance with the study carried out for the identification of the ideal location, subject to the final environmental impact assessment. The authority will house the solar power plant on its land and enter into a long-term lease – which is conditional on specific socio-economic benefits for all local Ba-Phalaborwa communities in areas such as business opportunities for SMEs, transfer /skills development, job creation, etc.

During the deployment phases of the project, many direct and indirect employment opportunities will be created through the Marula Green Power project, while local suppliers in the Ba-Phalaborwa region will benefit from new business opportunities, notes the company.

“Mzansi Energy has developed a community development roadmap to boost the local economy through skills development and employment of local people. This applies during the development, construction and operation of the solar photovoltaic power plant in the Ba-Phalaborwa region.

“Based on initial estimates, the project could create around 500 to 750 fixed-term jobs during construction and around 35 permanent jobs during the 12-year operation and maintenance period,” says Mzansi Energy.