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Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  17 Nov 2010

SOLAR ENERGY: Mining SA's Solar Energy Will Lead to Job Growth


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South Africa has the potential to create nearly 200 000 new jobs by 2020 through focusing its efforts on growing the solar power industry, however current targets being set by the government are not yet enough to meet this target.

That was the view put forward by Pancho Ndebele of Emvelo – the solar power development group and chairman of the Southern Africa Solar Thermal and Electricity Association (Sastela) – who was speaking at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) on the topic of solar resources and how South Africa can benefit from this technology. The discussion forms part of the USB’s series of Leaders Angle talks. A 15 minute video extract of the panel discussion is available on the USB website at

Ndebele says the current draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2010 put forward by the government has so far only allocated 200 MW of Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) by 2015 and 600 MW by 2019. “This is far below what South Africa has the potential to achieve. We have the opportunity to create a solar corridor in the Northern Cape, with a number of solar power parks positioned across the province.”

He said if the government commits to a target of 2 GW of CSP by 2020 that would create a total of 191 000 jobs, through 23 000 direct (construction, operation and manufacturing) positions and an additional 168 000 indirect jobs.

A two-day Solar Park conference, organised by the Department of Energy, was recently held in Upington, Northern Cape, regarding a proposed 5 000 MW solar park in the area. The first 1 000 MW is expected to be operational by 2012.

Ndebele said there is the potential for many more similar projects within the solar corridor as the area has the Orange River for irrigation as well as a workforce that could be trained in the operational and maintenance needs of a solar park. “The work has already been done in the area so we need to ensure that create a corridor of solar power and not just concentrate our efforts in one area.”

“South Africa is very fortunate in terms of its renewable energy sources as it has ample potential for hydro, wind and solar energy. However, solar energy is the only renewable energy source that has the potential to create additional jobs per MW.

“Establishing a solar power industry is similar to the creation of South Africa’s automotive industry in South Africa decades ago. We need to take a comparable standpoint for solar power now because in the long term this will contribute towards a solar gold rush for our country.

Ndebele said he believes that by 2020 the local solar power industry will be even bigger than the 2 GW he is currently aiming for. “Solar has massive potential for energy in the future. There is no fluctuation in the price, meaning we can determine the cost of solar energy 20 years from now, something we can’t do with traditional energy sources.”

Despite assertions that solar energy can only be produced during daylight hours, Ndebele said new technology also means solar energy can continue being produced around the clock.

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