Johannesburg | The world's largest solar battery went into operation in South Africa last month, bringing some relief to a country facing daily electricity crisis and rationing by Eskom -- its sole electricity supplier.
Statec -- South Africa's largest player in the solar energy market -- said its solar battery storage system started feeding power into Eskom's grid in mid-December from its hybrid solar and battery facility in the Northern Cape province, which receives the greatest amount of sunlight in the country throughout the year.
Statec has built three plants in the region, covering 879 hectares and stretching 10 kilometres from north to south.
Together, the plants can produce a combined solar capacity of 540 MW while its massive battery system can deliver up to 225 MW of power into the grid.
The company is selling electricity from the facility to Eskom under a 20-year power purchase agreement.
This is part of concessions made by the South African government for private power generation since the loadshedding crisis began a few years ago.
The company said the project was one of the world's first and largest hybrid solar and battery storage facilities.
"A hybrid solar and battery storage plant integrates solar and battery technologies, overcoming intermittency challenges and bolstering grid stability," Scatec told local media.
"With the ability to deliver reliable power in low or no sunlight, the integrated storage enhances overall reliability. Notably, the project outperformed fossil fuels in a competitive bid, cementing renewables' ascendance as the most cost-effective electricity source," it added.
The project involved over 2,600 workers spending almost 18 months installing close to a million photovoltaic modules.
The team used 9,000 kilometres of cabling, equivalent to the distance between South Africa and Norway.
To put the scale of the facility in perspective, Statec said each of the 456 battery units is the size of a shipping container and weighs around 3,000 kilogramme.
Besides this new facility, Statec has more than 448 MW of solar power operating elsewhere in South Africa after it entered the market shortly before the government announced The Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme in 2011.
As part of this programme, South Africa plans to have more than 8 GW of solar power by 2030.
Statec has also been selected as the preferred bidder for the government's Mogobe (Ferrum) battery energy storage project, which will add a further 103 MW of capacity and 412 MWh storage under the Battery Energy Storage Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme.
The South African government has had formal discussions to convince the company to open a local factory.