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Solar energy for major coal mine

An image depicting the Grootegeluk mine

GOING SOLAR To ensure the successful realisation of the Lephalale Solar Project, the project will be constructed through a fully wrapped, engineering, procurement and construction contract

Photo by Donna Slater

1st September 2023

     

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Financial close was reached early in July for the 68 MW Lephalale Solar Project (LSP), which will supply renewable energy to Exxaro’s flagship Grootegeluk mine, in Limpopo.

The project, undertaken by independent power producer, builder and operator Cennergi – a wholly owned subsidiary of diversified miner Exxaro Resources – will serve as a behind-the-meter energy source, providing direct solar power to the Grootegeluk mine for 25 years through a power purchase agreement.

Cennergi has an established portfolio of 11 operational wind and solar photovoltaic projects in South Africa, and another four projects under development. Thirteen of these are distributed generation facilities, while two comprise utility generation.

Spanning across a 236 ha development envelope, the LSP site is strategically located in the Waterberg district, located on Exxaro-owned land adjacent to the existing Grootegeluk mine operations.

The LSP is located near the town of Marapong and State-owned power utility Eskom’s Matimba and Medupi power stations, all in Limpopo.

To ensure the successful realisation of the LSP, the project will be constructed through a fully wrapped, engineering, procurement and construction contract.

Cennergi reports that the operations and maintenance of the solar facility will be entrusted to a highly experienced operator.

The LSP, planned to be constructed over a 19-month period, will be financed through limited recourse project finance debt from lenders, as well as equity investment from its sole shareholder, Cennergi.

As part of Exxaro’s Sustainable Growth and Impact strategy, the business is committed to the success of the LSP project, which will result in energy cost savings, increased energy security and decarbonisation benefits for Exxaro.

The LSP will also foster sustainable development and offer socioeconomic benefits for local communities.

Situated 20 km from Lephalale in South Africa’s Limpopo province, the openpit Grootegeluk mine employs 3 200 people and produces 26-million tonnes of coal a year, using a conventional truck and shovel operation.

Grootegeluk has an estimated minable coal reserve of 3.26-billion tonnes of coal, and a total measured coal resource of 4.72-billion tonnes, from which semi-soft coking coal, thermal coal, and metallurgical coal can be produced.

“We are thrilled to unveil the LSP as a landmark renewable-energy initiative in partnership with Exxaro,” says Exxaro Resources energy MD Leon Groenewald.

Exxaro CEO Dr Nombasa Tsengwa says that leveraging solar power to meet the energy needs of the Grootegeluk mine is a follow-through on Exxaro’s commitment to business sustainability and supporting the transition towards a greener future.

“This project represents a significant milestone in South Africa’s renewable-energy landscape and showcases the enormous potential of clean energy in driving economic growth and reducing carbon emissions,” she concludes.

Edited by Donna Slater
Features Deputy Editor and Chief Photographer

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