SunPower breaks ground on 86 MW solar power plant in South Africa

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Renewable energy company SunPower started construction on the 86 MW peak Prieska solar power plant in South Africa's Northern Cape province. Expected to be fully operational in 2016, the project represents the third solar power plant constructed by SunPower under the South Africa government's renewable energy program.

In 2014, SunPower completed two projects totaling 33 MW, located near Douglas in the Northern Cape province.

SunPower designed and is constructing the Prieska project, and will provide operations and maintenance services once it is operational. The project will sell the electricity it produces to the regional public utility Eskom under a power purchase agreement. About 700 jobs will be created by the project during construction.

SunPower Oasis Power Plant technology will be installed at the Prieska site. The technology uses single-axis trackers to position high efficiency SunPower solar panels to face the sun throughout the day, increasing energy capture by up to 25 percent over fixed-tilt solar technology.

The project has been secured under a project development agreement with South African Mulilo Solar Enterprises and Total, SunPower's majority shareholder. The project company in charge of implementing the project is owned by affiliated companies including Total as majority shareholders (27 percent) and Mulilo Solar Enterprises (18 percent), along with four other partners including a local community trust.

At its new South African manufacturing plant, SunPower expects to produce up to 160 megawatts of high efficiency SunPower solar panels per year. The company estimates that the facility will create up to 150 local jobs.

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