Black company makes renewable energy history

A 100% black-owned company has made history in the highly competitive South African renewable energy industry by pioneering and leading the development of a large-scale concentrated solar power (CSP) station that is now supplying electricity to Eskom’s severely constrained national grid.
The R11-billion, 100 MW Ilanga CSP1 power station is the first of 92 large-scale renewable energy projects in South Africa to be initiated by a wholly black-owned company which has also led the project’s development and played a role in the construction and day-to-day management through all its stages.

langa CSP1 plant 

Situated 30 km east of Upington in the Northern Cape, the new CSP power station has the capacity to light up about 100 000 households. It is capable of supplying electricity not only when the sun is shining but is designed to store energy during the day and deliver power during the night-time peak period when the national grid is under the severest strain, forcing Eskom to resort to its current rounds of load-shedding.

Aerial view of the Ilanga CSP1 plant.

“We have every reason to be immensely proud of this achievement,” says Emvelo founder Pancho Ndebele. “The completion of Ilanga CSP1 demonstrates that black industrialists and entrepreneurs can conceive and lead the development of large renewable energy infrastructure projects in South Africa and beyond.

“Ilanga CSP1 has been developed and led by a 100% black-owned company; the two top executives in the project company, CEO Niroshma Chetty and CFO Zandi Nkone, are black females; two-thirds of the project company’s board members are black and it is 80% South African-owned.”

From left: Upington’s mayor, Limakatso Koloi; Pancho Ndebele; Premier of the Northern Cape, Sylvia Lucas; Rafael Alonso, Dankocom EPC.

Commercial operation of Ilanga CSP1 brings to 400 MW the total capacity of CSP that has been installed by private developers in the Northern Cape under the South African government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP).  A further 100 MW of capacity is under construction by another developer which aims to supply electricity to Eskom in the first quarter of 2019. And yet another developer is awaiting financial close of an additional 100 MW of CSP capacity. The government has so far procured 92 large-scale solar, wind, hydro and bio-energy projects under the REIPPPP.

The Ilanga CSP1 team.

Emvelo’s ambitions extend well beyond the Ilanga CSP 1 project. Ndebele says that the new 100 MW power station is the first phase of its planned 1 000 MW Karoshoek Solar Valley Park, He explains that four other projects with a combined capacity of 550MW are at “shovel-ready” stage but that Emvelo and its partners will need to overcome at least one major obstacle before they can proceed with the rest of the implementation. The obstacle is the government’s new draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) which does not envisage any further CSP deployment until 2030.

“Renewable energy developers have been urging various changes to the draft IRP during the public participation process, and we can only hope that government takes their views into account in finalizing the IRP,” says Ndebele. “Emvelo has been pioneering CSP deployment since 2009 before the REIPPPP was introduced. “We have built up the knowledge base required to grow the CSP sector and to position the Northern Cape as the global hub for the deployment and industrialization of CSP components. It would be a major blow if we and other CSP players were to be stopped in our tracks at this stage.”

CSP uses specially designed mirrors to focus the sun’s light energy and convert it into heat to create steam which is used to drive a turbine that generates electricity. The Ilanga CSP1 plant incorporates a facility containing molten salt in which heat not required for day-time generation is stored. The heat is then used to generate electricity during the night-time peak period. Ilanga CSP1 is capable of producing electricity for five hours when the sun is not shining.

Emvelo shares ownership of Ilanga CSP1 through Karoshoek Solar One. Its fellow shareholders in the project company are the Public Investment Corporation, the Industrial Development Corporation, Karoshoek SDI Trust, Spanish group Grazigystix and Hosken Consolidated Investments.

Ilanga CSP1 has helped to regenerate the economic, social and industrial fabric of the Northern Cape during the three-year construction phase, says Ndebele. The project clocked over six million working hours on site, 85% of which were clocked by South Africans, most of whom were from local communities. During peak construction, 1500 workers were on site, about 1300 of whom were South Africans.

Ilanga CSP1’s Operations and Maintenance (O&M) company, Seratype, whose partners are Emvelo, Sener and Cobra, has offered employment to 22 young people selected from 50 candidates, mostly youth within a 50 km radius of the site, who have completed a 200-hour CSP O&M training course in Upington. Speaking at the graduation ceremony, Northern Cape Premier Sylvia Lucas said this type of training was in line with key government objectives on basic education, skills development, local procurement, and the green economy. Ilanga CSP1 will provide employment for 62 people directly and to around 30 indirectly, during the operations and maintenance phase.

Contact Pancho Ndebele, Emvelo,



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