JSE-listed chemicals company Omnia on January 27 unveiled the 5 MW Phase 1 solar power plant at its Sasolburg operations, in the Free State, followed immediately by a sod-turning ceremony to mark the start of construction on an additional 5 MW power plant.
This second phase of the solar power plant, which will bring the total capacity up to 10 MW, will be completed by September, Omnia manufacturing MD Francois Visagie said at the event.
Omnia CEO Seelan Gobalsamy explained that the aim of the solar power project, which cost about R150-million, is to augment the supply of electricity at the company’s Sasolburg operations and reduce its dependency on coal-fired power sources and the national grid.
Omnia expects to generate close to 10 500 MWh/y from the Phase 1 development of the plant, saving about R12-million a year in energy costs. The finished 5 MW plant has 11 000 bi-facial solar photovoltaic panels, which allows the back of the panel to absorb reflective light, thereby amplifying the plant’s energy efficiency and generating capacity.
Together with Omnia’s ability to produce electricity from excess process steam from its nitric acid plants through co-generation, this added capacity will now supplement between 25% and 35% of the company’s total electricity requirements at its Sasolburg operations.
“By securing a portion of our electrical supply to the factory, we are improving our cost competitiveness as a manufacturer,” Visagie said.
“There has been a call for all stakeholders to work together to find resolutions to the country’s energy crisis which impacts all of us. We are proud to do our part to alleviate the electricity challenges and reduce Omnia’s impact on the environment,” Gobalsamy added.
Phase 2 of the solar plant development will see the addition of another 11 000 panels over 6.5 ha of Omnia-owned land. The management, procurement and engineering of both phases were carried out in-house. However, about 90 externally contracted staff managed the installation process over a seven-month period for Phase 1, with a similar outlook expected for Phase 2.
“This project reaffirms our long-term goals to reduce our environmental footprint. By increasing our capacity to generate an additional 10 000 MWh/y of renewable energy, we hope to unlock further growth and lead by example in the integration of solutions to improve sustainable energy supply,” Visagie said.
Gobalsamy said the solar power project would play a part in helping provide some relief to communities and small businesses facing extended electricity disruptions.
He also drew attention to Omnia’s Sasolburg reverse osmosis water treatment plant that was recently commissioned, which produces about 180 000 ℓ/y of treated water. Gobalsamy said this would help provide a 10% saving in potable water consumption.
“It’s an incredible amount of water that we will reuse in our plants and will make a difference in many people’s lives,” he said.