By the end of 2012, the first two windows of the REIPPP had been concluded. The biggest winner was solar photo voltaic (PV) technology, with no fewer than 27 projects getting the green light.
The Development Bank of Southern Africa approved loans of R9.6-billion in the first window alone. Ten of these 14 projects were in the Northern Cape Province. Bethulie on the southern border of the Free State Province is targeted as the site of a solar park, and one of winning bids went to SunEdison to build the Boshoff Solar Park, which will generate 60MW. SunEdison is a subsidiary of MEMC Electronic Materials, a New York stock-exchange-listed company with headquarters in California.
Letsatsi Power Company (which includes investors Kensani, Solar Reserve and Oakleaf Investments) is to build a 64MW PV project near Bloemfontein.
The Free State Development Corporation (FDC) is looking for investors in the solar energy field. The Xhariep Solar Farm (Bethulie) will require about R2-million. A solar water heater manufacturing facility is also envisaged for Botshabelo, with an anticipated investment requirement of R250-million.
SunEdison will establish a manufacturing plant in the province. The company is building a further two solar plants in Limpopo Province.
One of only two hydro-electric power generation plant projects that was granted in the second window was awarded to NuPlanet for the construction of a 4.3MW plant at the Botterkloof Dam on the As River.
A project that aims to use 400 000 tons of sorghum to make 150 million litres of bio-ethanol is under way in Bothaville.
When national government changed the rules for bio-ethanol production (effectively banning certain crops as feedstocks to ensure food security) the original project that was planned for this western Free State town fell through.
However, a Mauritius-registered company, Mabele Fuels, with the support of the Industrial Development Corporation, is now planning to spend R1.5-billion on building a plant to produce bio-ethanaol.
Local weekly newspaper, Mail & Guardian, reported in April 2013 that new national guidelines will require a minimum of 2% of bio-ethanol in petrol, but no date for this requirement has been set yet.
Suppliers will be paid on an ‘assets price-support model’ so support will be given based on lay-out rather than whether or not production targets are hit. This will encourage investment in the new sector.
A new pumped-storage scheme located in the northern Free State will add 1 332MW to the national grid when it is complete. Eskom's Ingula scheme (whereby water is pumped to reservoirs and then released) is on the provincial border with KwaZulu-Natal.
Eskom's existing Lethabo power station has a capacity of 3 708MW while the two hydro-power stations on the major dams (Gariep, 360MW, and Vanderkloof, 240MW) are used during periods of peak demand. Lethabo itself will get a solar photo-voltaic power station to cater to the power station's own needs: Eskom has contracted ABB to build the pilot plant.
The power parastatal completed 6 559 connections in the province and rolled out several cleaner energy projects such as compact fluorescent lights and solar water geysers. Eskom employs 2 467 people in the province and will spend R2.5-billion in the Free State to 2016.
Sasol is building a gas-fired 140MW plant in Sasolburg. Another company that will be generating some of its own power requirements is chemical manufacturer Omnia. Its new nitric acid plant, built at a cost of R1.4-billion, will produce about half the power that the company needs.
At the Beatrix gold mine, Gold Fields will not only gain electrical power when it burns off methane gas, but it will also earn carbon credits.
Electrical utility Centlec supplies services to several municipalities in the central and southern Free State. It is wholly owned by the Manguang Metropolitan Municipality and distributes electricity to 178 000 customers, evenly split between private and commercial clients. Centlec owns a thermal power station but it is currently not operational and the utility is looking for a private company as a possible operator.