Solar, Wind For South Africa Get A Boost

Hoping to broaden the energy base in a country where power shortages have been a hindrance to economic growth, the World Bank is getting behind two 100-megawatt renewable energy projects in South Africa – one solar, the other wind – with a $250 million loan to the national utility Eskom.

The new financing comes on top of $260 million the bank is already putting into those two projects as part of the $3.75 billion Eskom Investment Support Project approved in April 2010. Most of the rest of that money is earmarked for the under-construction, coal-burning, 4,800-MW Medupi Power Station. That plant will use supercritical technology, where extremely hot steam drives higher efficiencies and cleaner performance, but the World Bank said it also wants to jumpstart renewables development in the country, where rules.

 

South African solar power, Eskom

image via Eskom

“Africa is beginning to grow and the problem of energy insecurity is dampening that growth,” Obiageli K. Ezekwesili, World Bank vice president for the Africa region, said in a statement.  “By investing in these cutting-edge, transformational solar and wind power projects, we are saying that Africa can lead the way in securing a clean energy future.”

The utility-scale solar plant that gained new backing is targeted for Upington in Northern Cape province, and will use concentrating solar power technology. The wind power project is to be located in Sere, about 180 miles north of Cape Town.

“Africa is rich in sources of renewable energy, and broadening the existing mix to include renewables is essential for sustainable development of the energy sector,” said Jamal Saghir, World Bank director for sustainable development for the Africa region. “Once implemented, these pioneering energy projects will provide powerful demonstrator effects for the benefit of Africa’s largest economy and beyond.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.