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Exxaro, Cennergi reach sodturning milestone for Lephalale solar project

The sodturning ceremony at the Lephalale solar plant

Photo by Creamer Media's Tasneem Bulbulia

16th November 2023

By: Tasneem Bulbulia

Senior Contributing Editor Online

     

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Diversified mining and renewable energy solutions company Exxaro Resources and its wholly-owned subsidiary Cennergi on November 16 unveiled the Lephalale solar project (LSP), with the sodturning serving as a ceremonial opening of the project.

The project is a utility-scale behind-the-meter solar photovoltaic (PV) plant.

The plant, in Limpopo, will supply power directly to Exxaro’s Grootegeluk coal mine under a 25-year agreement.  

The project will have an installed capacity of 68 MW that will generate 176 GWh/y of energy.

Exxaro Energy MD Leon Groenewald told Mining Weekly that the project would provide about 30% of the mine’s total power needs.

He added that there could be potential at a much later stage to explore options to also supply power to the surrounding community.

Moreover, the project will reduce Exxaro’s carbon emissions at the mine by about 26% and result in energy cost savings of about R100-million a year.

Groenewald said the R1.56-billion project was being funded in part by Exxaro, with the balance financed by Standard Bank and Nedbank.   

The project is being executed in two phases.

Construction has already started, and it is set to be completed early in the second quarter of 2025, Groenewald informed.  

He said Exxaro actively engaged with the local community and aimed to employ between 300 to 400 people during peak construction, with a focus on local procurement.

Groenewald noted that there was potential for localisation in the pre-construction stage, such as in the clearing of the bushveld and civil works.

He also pointed out that the 129 000 solar panels that would make up the project would be imported from China, as South Africa's solar industry did not currently have the economies of scale to supply the required panels.

The project was highlighted as a significant milestone for Exxaro in its journey towards carbon neutrality by 2050.

It was also noted as the second step in the company’s renewable energy journey, which began in 2009 with a wind farm.

It was also lauded as the start of the company’s self-generation and organic growth aspiration, as part of implementing its Sustainable Growth and Impact strategy.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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