JUWI Renewable Energies and South Africa-based mid-tier gold producer, Pan African Resources, have announced that the 10 MW Elikhulu solar renewable energy plant at the Evander gold operations has become the first embedded project over 1 MW to receive full grid code compliance from utility Eskom.
This follows the South African government’s decision in 2021 to raise the licensing threshold for embedded generation projects from 1-100 MW, aimed at alleviating the energy crisis by unlocking private generation capacity. In order to attain grid compliance, projects need to demonstrate full compliance with the Renewable Power Plants Grid Connection Code, the companies explained.
Richard Doyle, Managing Director, JUWI, said: “We’re delighted that Elikhulu is the first behind-the-client metre large-scale project to get the stamp of approval from Eskom, which confirms that the project adhered to very rigorous grid connection standards. As the trailblazer leading the rollout of private generation by major energy users, Elikhulu will unlock significant new generation capacity and reduce pressure on the national grid, which contributes to fewer instances of loadshedding.”
Barry Naicker, Head of ESG at Pan African, said: “For Pan African Resources, mining is also about sustainability and going ‘beyond compliance’, which means that we are committed to rolling out renewable energy solutions at all our operations in South Africa. We’re grateful that the Elikhulu photovoltaic plant is online and operating efficiently, and pleased that it is the first project of its kind to be connected to the South African grid. This represents a major turning point in the country’s transition to clean energy.”
When the Elikhulu plant was initiated by Pan African, the licensing threshold was 10 MW. With the further increase of the licensing threshold to 100 MW, the mining company plans to expand the plant’s output to 22 MW in 2023 to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve efficiencies, which will reduce the cost of gold production, it says.
When the plant build was annoucned in 2020, Pan African said it would use bi-facial module technology to maximise its yield and be constructed on previously disturbed land owned by Evander Mines. It was to provide an estimated 30% of Elikhulu’s power requirement during daylight hours and was expected to materially reduce electricity costs at this operation.