- The Gold Fields board has approved plans to construct a 40MW solar plant at its South Deep gold mine, which will include 116 000 solar panels.
- The plant will deliver a fifth of the mine's power, and save the company R120m a year in electricity bills.
- Other large companies, including Shoprite, are also generating their own power after a year of record-high load shedding.
Gold Fields is finalising plans to construct a 40MW solar plant at its South Deep gold mine, which will comprise 116 000 solar panels and cover 118 hectares, roughly the size of 200 soccer fields.
The company received a licence to generate its own electricity from the National Energy Regulator of South Africa in February, and this week, its board gave the go-ahead for the R660 million project to proceed.
The plant will supply a fifth of the mine’s power, and will be built on South Deep premises. The mine is near Westonaria, 50km south-west of Johannesburg.
The company expects the plant will save it R120 million in the cost of electricity a year. Currently, electricity represents 13% of the mine’s operating costs. The plant will be funded from cash generated by the mine over the next two years.
Gold Fields is currently finalising criteria for prospective construction companies, and expects to commission the plant in the first half of next year. Some 240 jobs will be created during the construction phase, while a team of 12 people will be required to operate the plant once operational.
As far as possible, goods and services required to build the plant will be sourced locally, the company said.
"We are the first South African mine to build and operate our own solar plant of this scale," Gold Fields CEO Chris Griffith said in a statement. He expects that the plant will reduce the company's carbon footprint by around 100 000 tons of carbon dioxide a year.
Record-high levels of load shedding in 2020 have convinced many South African companies to take advantage of new regulations that allow them to generate their own electricity. Last year, South Africa saw 859 hours of electricity rationing last year - almost 10% of time, according to a recent report by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
Shoprite now generates 12 300 MWh a year (enough electricity to power more than 1,100 households) from rooftop solar panes at 19 sites in South Africa and Namibia. The group has also fitted solar panels to the roofs of 649 trucks, which generate 760 MWh annually.
Sasol recently announced that it wants to procure 900MW in renewable energy in coming years, and Amazon reportedly plans to generate power for its local data centres from a solar project in the Northern Cape.
Earlier this year, the Western Cape allocated almost R70 million to help municipalities generate their own electricity, and bypass Eskom.
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