Mixed Greens: Solar bids swamp South Africa renewables program

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S Africa struggles to pick winning renewables bids from field of 93. Big solar plans for Madhya Pradesh, Swaziland; France’s $200m solar R&D facility.

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Huge interest in large-scale solar PV and wind energy generation has delayed proceedings in the third round South Africa’s national renewable energy program, reports PV Tech, with the government announcing that final decisions had not been taken after a total of 93 bids were made for power purchase contracts with South Africa’s national utility, Eskom.

A Department of Energy statement said that of the 93 bids received in this latest round of its Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (REIPPPP), 17 had been selected in an initial wave of preferred bidders; including six for 450MW of PV, more than the 401MW of PV capacity initially due to be up for grabs. A further 18 bids had been dismissed as “non-compliant” with the rules of tender, but the department said it was still considering further compliant bids under the PV and wind categories. It said these categories had attracted the most interest.

“The department has taken note of the fact that a large number of very competitive bid responses were submitted for the third bid submission date in the onshore wind and solar photovoltaic technologies, and the department is considering the appointment of additional preferred bidders for those technologies from the remaining compliant bidders,” the statement said. A final decision is due to be made before November 20.

In other solar news…

The government of Madhya Pradesh, India, has announced plans to install 1200MW of solar power by the middle of 2015 – a move which would increase the state’s solar capacity to 1.4GW. From just 2MW in April 2012, Madhya Pradesh currently has 202MW of installed PV power, and is expected to reach 220MW by the end of 2013. “In the second quarter of 2013, 191 MW of solar capacity was added in India, of which 145 MW was added in Madhya Pradesh, which is almost 80%,” said S R Mohanty, the state’s principal secretary.

PV Magazine reports that the state’s wider renewable energy objectives are even loftier, with a projected 3.8GW of clean power projects planned for 2015, 1.9GW of which would come from wind power, plus 300MW from biomass, and 200MW from small hydro. If all this is achieved, the state’s renewable energy generation capacity would stand at 21.11 per cent of all power produced by 2015, up from 5 per cent in 2012.

French energy giants Total and EDF are putting their combined weight behind the creation of a solar energy research institute south of Paris, with a €150 million ($US206.5 million) budget. The planned Ile-de-France Photovoltaic Institute (IPVF), set for construction next year in Saclay, would compete with leading institutions in the US, Japan and Switzerland. The group effort, which includes France’s Polytechnique engineering school and government research institute CNRS, aims to attract about 200 researchers by 2016. “We want to be among the very best, at least in the top five research hubs in the world,” Jean-Francois Minster, Total’s scientific director and head of the new IPVF, told Reuters in an interview. Research activities will focus on five programs, including R&D on silicon and thin-film solar cells and environmental impact studies.

The southern African nation of Swaziland is reportedly planning to build a 100MW solar PV farm; a ground-mounted project to be developed by Services Global L Power Swaziland (SGL Power) – a new electricity generating company specialising in solar, coal and gas power. The $US185 million project is to be built on 300 hectares of land which is being leased from a 700 hectare farm owned by House of Assembly Speaker, Prince Guduza Dlaminis. The plant is scheduled for completion in September 2014.

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