SA and Chinese firms put money into eco-friendly electric power

Cape Town-based Mulilo Renewable Energy has partnered with a number of Chinese businesses to take advantage of the increased interest in alternative energy in South Africa by developing generation capacity coming from wind and solar powered energy sources.

Mulilo Renewable Energy (MRE) was formed by a group of globally recognised South African businessmen, and their partners envisage investing approximately R15-billion when it comes to alternative energy projects in the country over the next few years.

Apart from its technological know-how partners, MRE has a direct financing partner, the China-Africa Development Fund, which is able to underwrite virtually any project endorsed by MRE.

Long-term commitment and financial commitment

MRE is working with China’s Long Yuan Corporation in order to develop six wind farm projects that will be in a position to generate an output of 1 500 megawatts. Construction at one such facility, planned for De Aar in the Northern Cape, is scheduled to start in March 2011, with an estimated completion date in June 2012 of the first phase.

Long Yuan’s parent company, the Guodian Corporation, has made a long-term commitment to South Africa, and also plans to build a state-of-the-art wind turbine assembly plant in addition to a blade manufacturing facility in the Western Cape.

Both of these facilities would likely create more than 1 500 “environmentally friendly” jobs, and also would service South Africa’s fledgling wind power industry and as well those of other African economies.

Chinese employees will also to begin with comprise less than 5 % of the overall workforce, and this figure will be reduce as South Africans acquire experience in the development, operation and maintenance of wind farm projects.

The Guodian Corporation (Guodian stands for “state power” in Mandarin) is a major state-owned business enterprise that is focused on electric power generation adn technology. With a capacity of 85 000 MW, it is double the size of South Africa’s Eskom, and also includes nuclear, hydro-electrical and coal-fired power stations.

Testing solar modules

The organization has additionally been constructing a solar energy farm making use of technology and know-how offered by one of China’s top three photovoltaic cell producers, Yingli Solar, from the town of Copperton.

Residents from the small town, some 60km north of Prieska in the Northern Cape, experienced a taste of things to come when solar energy was delivered free to their local community hall and church in May this year.

The location was chosen as a possible area to test the particular solar modules in harsh South African conditions, and the generated electric power is going to benefit the 600 homeowners of the town which experts state survives on a small agricultural industry.

“This small location had been initially constructed as a mining town, but since the operations shut down, it’s been a difficult struggle for the residents,” said MRE director Johnny Cullum during the time. “This starting point, although it will benefit only a small number of people at this time, represents our broad-ranging solar power and wind energy initiative for the whole country.”

The China-Africa Development Fund was set up in June 2007, and now has access to several billion dollars made available from the China Development Bank. This equity investment fund is designed to help Chinese businesses to develop cooperative investment strategies with Africa and to gain entry to the African marketplace.



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