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Eskom Plans Solar Energy Projects at Coal-Fired Plants

Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., South Africa’s state-owned utility, plans to open 5-10 megawatt solar plants at its coal-fired stations from 2013 to reduce emissions.

The utility, which provides about 95 percent of the country’s electricity, will make a final business case for the plants by the first quarter of 2012, Corporate Services Managing Director Steve Lennon said today in an interview.

Three pilot photovoltaic projects at the company’s Lethabo and Kendal plants and head office in Johannesburg will be in production by the end of the week, Chief Executive Officer Brian Dames told reporters today in Lethabo, south of Johannesburg. They will have a combined capacity of about 1.5 megawatts, he said, enough to supply 1,700 houses.

The test projects will “provide us with a basis to really understand the cost of solar energy,” Dames said.

Eskom has obtained $615 million in loans from the World Bank and African Development Bank to develop a 100-megawatt wind power plant in the Western Cape that’s due to be ready by the beginning of 2013. A 100- megawatt solar project in the Northern Cape is expected to be up and running by 2016, Dames said.

The utility has a net maximum electricity generation capacity of 41,194 megawatts, of which coal accounts for 85 percent and renewable energy less than 1.5 percent. Eskom has hydro-electric capacity of 600 megawatts and 3 megawatts of wind power capacity.

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