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Chinese solar tech used in South African hybrid PV plant world first

JinkoSolar solar panels used for Solea Renewables off-grid diesel hybrid PV plant for South African mining industry

Solea Renewables decentralised 1MWDC hybrid PV system Image: Solea Capital GmbH

Chinese solar technology has been used to construct a world first hybrid PV plant in South Africa. South African firm Solea Renewables, a PV engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor in Johannesburg, has completed and commissioned the plant for the mining industry, which uses Chinese firm JinkoSolar’s polycrystalline PV panels.

The plant is claimed to be the world’s first 1MW ground-mounted diesel/photovoltaic hybrid electric power plant for industrial mining applications. The decentralised 1MWDC hybrid PV system has been installed for Cronimet Energy South Africa to fuel firm Cronimet Mining’s chromium ore operations.

The innovative and environmentally responsible renewable energy solution will allow the mining company to power their daytime operations with a decentralised grid-independent power supply. The 1MW PV plant will deliver approximately 1.8GWh of electricity per year, allowing the mining company to materially reduce its daytime diesel consumption and capitalise on a natural long-term hedge against rising diesel costs.

The fully integrated PV plant was constructed on Solea’s Renewables’ galvanised steel and aluminium fixed-tilt racking system mounted to its proprietary helical steel screw foundation. The racking system was planned with 63 tables, each with 66 panels mounted in three vertically mounted PV Panel rows angled at 25° north. The total height of the three panel rows is less than three meters. A total of 4,170 JinkoSolar JKM240P-60 polycrystalline PV panels, and 63 three-phase decentralised SMA 17000TL inverters, have been installed at the plant.
The PV system was designed around the mine’s existing primary diesel “island mode” power infrastructure and synchronised to the two existing 800kVa diesel gensets by using SMA’s Fuel Save Controller software. The software monitors and regulates the diesel gensets’ output in a real-time and consistent relationship with the PV plant’s output. The software computes the maximum amount of PV power that the island mode system can safely consume to ensure stability of the supply and the most effective use of renewable PV power.
Solea AG’s CEO, Anton Schweiger, said: “The realisation of our first grid-independent utility scale hybrid PV plant was a successful market entry for the Solea group. Southern Africa is a key growth market for Solea and our diesel hybrid PV systems are ready to roll out.”

Rollie Armstrong, director of Solea Capital GmbH added: “Hybrid PV systems provide mining operators in remote locations with low or no existing infrastructure with a reliable 20 to 30-year power source alternative to electrifying daytime mining operations with only diesel gensets.”

The news from Solea follows other projects Jinkosolar is working on to bring PV power into the mining industry. In September the company announced its involvement in converting a mine into a solar power plant in Germany.