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Amazon commissions a large scale renewable energy plant in South Africa

The project in South Africa is part of Amazon’s wider ambition to convert most of its business to renewable energy around the world

Technology giant Amazon is commissioning a large scale renewable energy plant in partnership with SOLA Group. The solar PV energy facility will be located in the Northern Cape province of South Africa and will supply clean renewable power to Amazon Web Services’ data centres in Cape Town. The power will be wheeled from the Northern Cape to via Eskom’s national grid. 

The facility was announced just days after state utility Eskom made announcements that South Africa should brace for load-shedding amid declining power capacity.

Construction for the project will begin in early 2021. 

Amazon businesses to be power by renewables

It is estimated that data centers currently use up to 1% of the world’s electricity. Amazon recently announced 26 new utility-scale wind and solar energy projects including the one in SA, totalling 3.4 gigawatts (GW) capacity. This brings its total investment in renewable energy in 2020 to 35 projects and more than 4GW of capacity.

The 26 new wind and solar projects are located in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, South Africa, Sweden, the UK, and the US.

With a total of 127 solar and wind projects, Amazon is now the biggest corporate buyer of renewable energy ever 

Jeff Bezos Amazon Founder

The project in South Africa is part of Amazon’s wider ambition to convert most of its business to renewable energy around the world.

Liberalising the energy grid

Wheeling energy via Eskom’s utility grid from a solar farm in the Northern Cape to Amazon’s facilities will set a precedent to open up the national grid for multiple users. SOLA will deliver the energy via the Wheeling Use-of-System agreement. “This Wheeling Use of System Agreement is the first of its kind and the largest solar PV wheeling arrangement in South Africa to date.” 

This will be instrumental in addressing the energy challenges South Africa has been experiencing as a result of Eskom’s unstable generation capacity. 

Chris Haw, SOLA’s Executive Director says the concept of wheeling energy using Eskom’s existing infrastructure has been in place since 2008, certain administrative barriers have hindered the uptake of such services. “This project, which comprises a 10 MW solar PV farm, has also received a sought-after generation license from NERSA, a milestone that other similar projects have struggled to achieve.”

SOLA will be responsible for developing the project and will build, own and operate the solar facility.

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