Signifying the beginning of construction of the R12-billion Kathu Solar Park greenfield project, top level representatives of the various companies involved, converged on Thursday 06 October 2016 to celebrate the groundbreaking ceremony. The project promises to inject a new lease of life with lots of opportunities for the people from the region in general and for Kathu in particular. From left to right : Cedric Faye (Kathu Solar Park), Mike Goldblatt (Lereko Metier), Siyabonga Mbanjwa (Sener), Ramón Jiménez (Acciona), Mohamed Hoosen (Engie), Memory Mashingaidze (PIC), Vusani Malie (SIOC-cdt), Miklats Echevarria (Sener), André Wepener (Investec), David Leich (Engie) and Roberto Felipe Rodriguez (Acciona).
Kathu Solar Park celebrated its groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday 06 October 2016 at their site approximately 10 km from Kathu.
The event marked the beginning of the construction phase, being the second phase of the R12-billion project that commenced on 26 May 2016 with the first phase. The first phase consisted of the deforestation and levelling of the site that matches the size of 400 rugby fields (8km2).
Present at the prestigious event were top level representatives of the various companies who had formed collaborations to establish the project, ie Engie, Sener, Acciona and South African investors SIOC Community Development Trust, the Investec bank, Lereko Metier and the Public Investment Corporation.
Speaking at the event, Siyabonga Mbanjwa – Regional Managing Director of Sener, quoted Armerican environmentalist and politician Al Gore who once said “Once the renewable infrastructure is built, the fuel is free forever. Unlike carbon-based fuels, the wind and the sun and the earth itself provide fuel that is free, in amounts that are effectively limitless.”
Mr Mbanjwa said that besides providing leading cost efficient sustainable solar power generation to the region, the project also develops the local industrial network by creating jobs and local manufacturing, supply and subcontracting opportunities. He added that they intend exceeding their targets for spend on local content, black empowered business, small business and women-owned businesses. He confirmed that approximately 1200 jobs would be created during the construction phase alone and that over 80% employees on the project would be South African and over 20% would be from the local communities within the John Taolo Gaetsewe district.
Cedric Faye the CEO of Kathu Solar Park said that the project has four commitments, namely : (i) Local content – 42% during the construction phase. (2) Local employment, especially during the construction phase. (3) Empowerment of the local trust and shareholders to ultimately improve local healthcare and education, and (4) 1% of the revenue spent locally for economic development. He stressed though that local suppliers and technicians must be able to implement world class safety and technology.
Ramón Jiménez – Managing Director of Acciona, said that Kathu Solar Park reflects Acciona’s commitment to reduce CO2 emissions to the environment.
Mohammed Hoosen – CEO of Engie SA and Chairman of Kathu Solar Park, said that this project harnesses the abundant sunshine of the Northern Cape and that he was grateful that the South African government had realised the value of power procurement programmes such as this one. He expressed his pleasure about the project now entering into phase 2 - the construction phase - projected for 28 months and ending October 2018, after which the third phase will commence, ie the 20-year long operation and maintenance phase. Mr Hoosen said that continued investment in similar projects will help the global economy in general and the South African economy in particular to turn around the slow growth.
Representatives from the Rand Merchant Bank, Nedbank Capital, ABSA Capital, Investec and the Development Bank of South Africa who funded the project, were also present.
The Senior IPP Executive of Eskom Gauteng Motlatsi Makhari was also present. Eskom has a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with the Engie-led consortium for the 100 MW power that will be generated from the plant that employs parabolic trough solar technology.
The Ambassador of Spain in South Africa Juan Snell and a representative of the French Embassy in South African, William Roos, also graced the occasion.