Ireland's Mainstream Renewable Power announced this week that it was starting construction on solar and wind power projects in South Africa, in a Â€500-million (about R5.5-billion) investment under a government programme that has ushered in the country's first large-scale renewable energy projects.
The Dublin-based company is one of 28 independent power producers that signed contracts with the South African government last week, in the first round of a programme that will see an initial 1 400 megawatts of renewable energy being added to South Africa's energy mix, while bringing an estimated R47-billion in new investment into the country.
Mainstream Renewable Power and its partners will build a 138 MW wind farm in Jeffreys Bay in the Eastern Cape, and two 50 MW solar photovoltaic (PV) parks in the Northern Cape - one near De Aar and one at Droogfontein near Kimberley.
All three projects are scheduled to be fully operational by mid-2014.
"The South African government has shown tremendous vision and foresight in creating this new and sustainable industry for South Africa, firmly placing it on the world map for renewable energy generation," Mainstream CEO Eddie O'Connor said in a statement on Monday.
"Mainstream is fully committed to playing a leading role in the delivery of this vision, to bringing significant socio-economic benefits to the areas in which we're building the projects, as well as clean, free-fuel energy to South Africa."
According to Mainstream, the projects are expected to generate hundreds of jobs during construction and, once operational, the project revenues are expected to benefit local communities through socio-economic and enterprise development.
"The projects are expected to produce 635 GWh of electricity, enough to supply up to 48 000 households and displace approximately 628 000 tons of carbon emissions per year," the company said.
Mainstream won the contract for the three projects as the lead partner in a consortium including US power company Globeleq as the strategic equity partner, Thebe Investment Corporation, local engineering firms Enzani Technologies and Usizo Engineering, as well as local community trusts.
The projects are being co-developed with Mainstream's South African partner, renewable energy developer Genesis Eco-Energy. Old Mutual's IDEAS Managed Fund is an additional consortium member of the Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm.