Massive solar farm launches in South Africa

 ·19 Apr 2024

Norwegian-based Scatec ASA officially unveiled its 540 MW Kenhardt hybrid solar and battery facility in the Northern Cape on April 18th.

Comprising of three projects (Kenhardt 1-3), they have a total combined installed capacity of 540MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) and 225MW of batteries, sporting a storage capacity of 1.14GWh.

It comprises one million solar panels and 456 units, each matching the size of a shipping container and weighing 30 tonnes, and the project’s size spans 879 hectares (more than 1,500 soccer fields), or 10 km from north to south.

This makes it one of the largest hybrid solar and battery storage facilities in the world.

Aerial view of one of the Kenhardt locations. Photo: Scatec

“The sheer size of Kenhardt is impressive, difficult to grasp,” said Scatec CEO Terje Pilskog at the launch.

“Plants like Kenhardt significantly alleviate the power shortages currently experienced, highlighting the critical role of energy storage in the country’s road towards energy security, and the battle against the ongoing load shedding crisis,” he added.

Some of the Scatec’s battery storage packs. Photo: Northern Cape Provincial Government

The project had a total capital expenditure of approximately R19 billion and employed 2,500 people during its construction phase.

The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy awarded the contract under the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme back in 2022.

The Kenhardt 1-3 power project will supply 150MW consistently between 05:00 and 21:30 throughout the year to Eskom daily under a 20-year agreement.

Minister of Electricity, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, said that this project is a crucial component of South Africa’s energy and renewables future.

“It is a remarkable example of what can be achieved… in terms of the Energy Mix, it is just a confirmation of the point that you need new generation capacity to support the capacity that is generated by Eskom for us to come out of a very very difficult situation,” the minister told the SABC.

Stakeholders at the launch of the Kenhardt solar farm on 18 April 2024. Photo: Northern Cape Provincial Government

“With Kenhardt, we prove that renewables are competitive not only on an intermittent basis, but [they are] also able to provide competitive power on a firm and baseload basis,” said Pilskog.

South Africa’s biggest solar battery storage system started feeding power into Eskom’s grid back in mid-December 2023.

However, the minister stated that due to government’s limited grid capacity, the plants are currently generating more power than it can transmit.

Read: Major R3 billion solar project breaks ground in South Africa

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