Powering Change 

By Jessie Taylor

A major new solar project is being launched in the Western Cape, which will aid the provincial government in its bid to improve energy resilience in the region. Atlantis Foundries – part of major vehicle manufacturer Daimler Truck AG – signed a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA) with Energy Partners (EP) for the solar project. EP will engineer, finance, construct and operate the ground-mounted solar energy system at Atlantis Foundries’ production plant in Cape Town. 

Emissions Saving

Atlantis Foundries is one of Africa’s largest foundry operations and produces automotive castings for the commercial vehicle industry. The project comprises more than 20 000 solar panels, with a total rated capacity of 13.5MWp. The PPA is planned for May 2024 and will provide Atlantis Foundries with a reliable electricity source at a substantially reduced cost over the next two decades. The project is expected to be the Western Cape’s largest embedded-generation solar project and will likely be the highest CO₂ emissions-saving project in the South African auto industry. EP CEO Manie de Waal said that, in financial terms, the project is likely to generate electricity worth more than R35-million per year at the current average Eskom tariffs.

He added that the system had been engineered to suit Atlantis Foundries’s electrical consumption profile and could replace as much as a fifth of the company’s annual electricity consumption. The solar plant will be integrated into Atlantis Foundries’ electrical network, which is connected to the City of Cape Town’s grid, and any excess energy generated by the plant will be fed into the City’s network. Atlantis Foundries CEO Pieter du Plessis said: “Our commitment is to both our shareholders, stakeholders and the environment. With this renewable energy generation project, we are setting new standards in the South African automotive industry and alleviating pressure on our constrained national grid.”

He added the project is the result of extensive cooperation with the Western Cape government and the City of Cape Town. This latest solar project feeds into a provincial focus on energy resilience. The Western Cape government has prioritised efforts to find solutions to power cuts and mitigate the impact of load shedding. Western Cape Premier Alan Winde estimated that the province lost up to R12.3-billion in a year due to loadshedding through more than 3 600 hours of power outages. Among the steps taken by the provincial government is the appointment of former Eskom executive Alwie Lester to assess measures small-to-medium sized businesses were implementing to mitigate the impact of Eskom’s ongoing power cuts. “We need to make sure that the focus is on getting ourselves as energy resilient as possible in the province,” said Premier Winde.


Building Capacity at Municipal Level

Premier Winde said the province has seen a growing appetite for renewable energy and an upswing in renewable energy consumption. The province’s energy plan builds on government-gazetted electricity regulations that allow municipalities to buy their own renewable energy from independent producers. The regulations allow them to procure cheaper or cleaner electricity from renewable energy sources. This has already been implemented in some Western Cape municipalities like the City of Cape Town.

To see this rolled out in more municipalities, the provincial government has launched the R13-million Western Cape Municipal Energy Resilience Fund to help local governments prepare for the adoption of renewable energy projects. The fund will help qualifying municipalities conduct research and plan for renewable energy projects. The Western Cape Energy Resilience Programme aims to reduce the impacts of loadshedding on businesses and citizens in the province by facilitating a lower level of reliance on Eskom. The programme seeks to provide development, support and capacity building to implement renewable energy projects in municipalities across the province to allow municipalities, businesses, and households to generate, procure and sell power. It also encourages municipalities to transact directly with independent power producers to increase energy and economic resilience.

The initiative seeks to provide project development support and capacity-building to municipalities and the private sector while working closely with the national government and others to explore how new energy regulations could lead to renewable energy generation projects in the Western Cape. The Atlantis Foundries project is the second big solar investment announcement in the province this year after the City of Cape Town announced in April that it plans to commission a R1.2-billion solar power plant with battery energy capacity. The project seeks to make Cape Town the first city without loadshedding in South Africa and is expected to generate up to 60MW of renewable energy. The feasibility study of the Cape Town solar project is expected to be completed by the end of this year and commissioned in mid-2026. 

Sources: Business Report | Business Tech | IT Web | Western Cape Government