A solar park is a concentrated zone of solar plants that are built in clusters, sharing common transmission and infrastructure. Together, these clusters generate thousands of megawatts of electricity.
The multibillion rand park – earmarked for the hot, dry Northern Cape province – will be built over thousands of hectares and provide 5 000 megawatts (five gigawatts) of electricity, which will be fed into the national grid.
According to the Department of Energy, the cost of the R150-billion park will be split between the national fiscus and private investors.
About 15 300 jobs will be created through the solar park to boost the economy of the Northern Cape, where there are currently high levels of unemployment. The park will also diversify the province’s industry profile, which is currently limited to mining and agriculture.
An advantage of utility-scale solar plants versus coal-fired or nuclear plants is that they can be built in stages, spreading the necessary investments over time.
By 2020 the cost of solar power should be less expensive than it is today, as there are opportunities to cut costs through engineering improvements.
In contrast, the cost of coal-fired power is likely to increase in time, as the technology is mature and the price of fossil fuels is likely to escalate, causing nuclear power to increase in price.