The 75 MW Waterloo solar photovoltaic (PV) farm, located 10 km outside of Vryburg, in the North West province, has started commercial operations.

The project achieved full quality and grid-code compliance by local engineering, procurement and construction contractor juwi Renewable Energies on November 21, and is part of the government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme.

Situated on a 171 ha site, the project was built in under two years. The plant is connected to Eskom’s Mookodi switching station, which feeds the generated power into the country’s national grid.

This 100% South African-owned solar project brings the total number of large-scale projects constructed in the province to three, in just one year.

Not only will the solar plant boost the renewable energy sector’s power production, it will also benefit the rural communities located within a 50 km radius of the plant through impactful economic development programmes.

During its 20-year operations period, the project will focus on empowering and strengthening the local communities of Vryburg, Kismet Park, Huhudi, Colridge and Dithakwaneng within the Naledi local municipal area.

Covid-19-related humanitarian initiatives, in partnership with various local community nongovernmental organisations and the Department of Social Development, were supported and funded to benefit a number of these communities, during the project’s construction period.

Additionally, hundreds of local high school learners received career development, which provided grade 11 and 12 learners with support tools for making improved subject choices linked to personal interests and strengths, in the senior phase of high school.

At the peak of construction of the project, over 500 people, mostly from the surrounding local beneficiary communities, were directly employed. This is in addition to the employment created through the contracting out of various services.

During Waterloo’s 20-year operations period, socioeconomic development projects will continue to focus on education, as well as youth development, health, food security and welfare.

The programmes have been chosen following research and engagement to ensure that they are well informed and will strengthen the beneficiary communities.

Further, a percentage of the revenue generated each year will be committed to implementing enterprise development initiatives, to build resilience and accelerate the growth and success of entrepreneurial businesses, ultimately stimulating local economic growth and creating opportunities for the economic participation of previously disadvantaged groups.

The focus is on small and medium-sized enterprises, designed to enhance growth. To deliver on this objective, the establishment of a local resource centre, for use by local small, medium-sized and microenterprises and communities at large, will support this drive to aid development, whilst the provision of accredited skills training will be provided to startup businesses.

Waterloo is owned by African Infrastructure Investment Managers (a member of Old Mutual Alternative Investments) through its IDEAS Fund, Reatile Solar Power, Phakwe Solar, AREP (African Rainbow Energy and Power) and Cicada Community Trust.

Waterloo will be operated and maintained, on behalf of the owners, by juwi for the first five year of operations.

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