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This article first appeared on Engineering News. Written by Tasneem Bulbulia.
Zeerust Solar, in the North West province, has started commercial operations, having achieved full compliance on January 1.
This 100% South African-owned photovoltaic (PV) project joins the Bokamoso and Waterloo Solar plants, putting the North West on the map as a player in the renewable energy sector, not only delivering additional power to the country’s national grid, but also benefiting the rural communities through impactful economic development programmes, Zeerust Solar said in a statement.
The 75 MW Zeerust Solar is currently the largest solar PV power project in the province, with 250 080 solar panels harnessing the intense North West sun, the company noted.
The solar plant is estimated to generate 180 GWh/y.
The project, which started construction in January 2019, is built on a 179 ha project site and is connected to State-owned Eskom’s Kameeldoorn switching station, which feeds the generated power into the country’s national grid.
Around 1 000 people from the local beneficiary communities were directly employed on the project during construction. This is in addition to the employment created through the contracting out of various services.
“Extensive economic development projects kicked off during our project’s construction period to provide Covid-19 relief, in addition to enterprise development training and accelerator programmes, skills development training and other welfare initiatives,” said Zeerust Solar CEO Isaac Mmushi.
In partnership with the Ramotshere Moiloa sub-district of the Department of Education, Zeerust Solar has also supported education.
“The implemented programmes, including specific support for Stinkhoutboom Primary, have helped rural learners gain confidence to succeed despite the challenges they face.
This is in addition to a Grade 12 excellence awards programme, aimed to stimulate and honour academic achievements of Matriculants, in schools across the sub-district,” said, sub-district manager Dr BKM Molokoe.
The focus of Zeerust Solar’s economic development programme is to empower and strengthen local communities in and around the Zeerust area, namely Ikageleng, Henryville, Olienhout Park, Shalimar Park, Welbedacht (Lehurutshe Town) and Groot Marico, as well as extending to 40 villages located within the Ramotshere Moiloa local municipal area.
Zeerust Solar’s socioeconomic development projects are focused on education, youth development, health, food security and welfare. The programmes have been chosen following research and engagement to ensure that they are well informed and will strengthen the beneficiary communities.
Moreover, a percentage of the revenue generated each year will be committed to implementing enterprise development initiatives, to build resilience and accelerate the growth and success of entrepreneurial businesses, to engender economic participation of previously disadvantaged groups.
The focus is on small, medium-sized and micro-enterprises (SMMEs) and is aimed at enhancing growth. To deliver on this objective, the establishment of a local resource centre, for use by local SMMEs and communities at large, will support this drive to support development, while the provision of accredited skills training will be provided to start-up businesses.
Zeerust Solar is owned by African Infrastructure Investment Managers, a member of Old Mutual Alternative Investments, through its IDEAS Fund, Reatile Solar Power, Phakwe Solar, African Rainbow Energy and Power and Cicada Community Trust.