As of October 2023, South Africa boasts 51 solar power stations contributing clean energy to its grid. These independently operated facilities vary in capacity, ranging from 5MW to a substantial 175MW for multi-phase installations. Collectively, they generate over 2,700MW of clean electricity, making solar power a significant source of energy in the country.
South Africa’s abundant sunshine throughout the year makes solar energy an attractive option for its power generation needs. Most of these solar farms utilize photovoltaic (PV) panels, similar to those commonly used in rooftop installations on homes and businesses. Large-scale PV solar farms have their panels mounted in the ground, often with the option for panels to be adjusted to maximize energy generation.
Additionally, South Africa has six concentrated solar plants (CSPs) with a total capacity of 500MW. Unlike PV plants, CSPs harness the sun’s thermal energy to produce electricity, using techniques like the linear concentrator system and power towers. These CSPs have the advantage of being able to store energy for use during peak electricity demand periods, contributing to grid stability.
However, CSP construction typically requires a higher upfront capital investment compared to PV plants. Solar farms are not limited to the Cape provinces; they are also found in central and northern regions of the country, including Free State, North West, and Limpopo.
Transmission grid capacity is available in these areas, enabling these plants to supply electricity to the grid effectively. The table provides a summary of these solar power plants, their locations, and their maximum output as of September 2023.
The total installed solar capacity, based on the IPP database, stands at 2,742.33MW. However, it’s worth noting that this figure may differ from the data provided by Eskom’s data portal.