South Africa goes solar in a big way

The Jasper PV Project in South Africa is due to begin construction later this year, becoming one of the country's largest solar plants. Located in the Northern Cape, South Africa's largest and most sparsely-populated province, the Jasper plant will use photovoltaic (PV) cells to power tens of thousands of homes throughout the country.

Tingli Green Energy, will be supplying the plants with enough photovoltaic solar cells to generate 96 megawatts (MW) of electricity. The green energy system will consist of over 325,000 solar cells, spread out over 445 acres.

The solar cells, Yingli YL295P-35b multi-crystalline modules, each produce up to 295 watts of electricity and operate at 15.1 percent efficiency. Each module is nearly 78 inches long by 39 inches wide, and weighs almost 60 pounds.

"This project is a major milestone in our strategy to bring affordable green energy for all into emerging markets like Africa," Liansheng Miao, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Yingli Green Energy, said.

The Jasper Power Company, who is heading the project, is hoping that the new plant will help the local economy as well, by providing jobs both during construction and while the plant is operational.

The South Africa Department of Energy gave the go-ahead to the construction of eight solar and seven wind farms, including the Jasper facility, in May 2012. Once those projects are complete, the country will begin another wave of green energy construction contracts to supply an additional 3,200 MW of renewable energy by 2020. Solar Reserve, a Santa Monica-based developer of large solar production facilities, assisted in the initial development of the Jasper PV Project.

"We are proud to be part of South Africa's progressive program to advance clean energy... Our Jasper project will provide substantial, long-term economic benefits to the region and help the country meet its impressive clean energy goals," Kevin Smith, CEO of SolarReserve, said.

Yingli Green Energy is headquartered in Baoding, China, which dubs itself China's "Clean Energy City." Solar cells, wind turbines and more provide significant power the city of almost 1.7 million people.

The electricity generated by the Jasper PV plant will replace enough fossil fuel usage to keep over 145,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the atmosphere each year.

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