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SA's Teraco to power data centers with 120MW solar plant

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Teraco, the vendor-neutral data center provider, is planning the construction of a 120 megawatt (MW) utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) energy facility in the Free State province of South Africa.

Teraco secured its first grid capacity allocation from South Africa's state-owned power utility, Eskom, which will enable Teraco to connect its planned 120MW solar facility to the national electrical grid.

"The power generated will be wheeled across Eskom and municipal power networks to Teraco's facilities across South Africa," the company said in a statement.

Teraco CEO Jan Hnizdo described the allocation as a key opportunity to meet the company's near-term renewable energy goals while adding additional power capacity to a generation-constrained grid.

"This will be a unique approach in Africa since Teraco will not only own its data center facilities but also a significant renewable energy source with which to power them, creating a sustainable energy path to support growth," he continued.

He added that the initiative aligns with Teraco's long-term vision of powering the digital transformation across Africa.

Teraco's use of the 120MW solar plant

Teraco said that when fully operational, the solar plant is expected to produce more than 338,000 MWh annually.

"This PV project represents a massive component of our plan to achieve our 100% clean energy goal, additionally, over the past two years, Teraco has deployed approximately 6MW of roof-top solar integrated into its facilities, and this is to be increased to 10MW as new facilities become operational," explained Teraco's head of sustainability, Bryce Allan.

The power generated from Teraco's Free State solar plant will be wheeled across Eskom and municipal power networks to Teraco's facilities across South Africa.   (Source: Image by ASphotofamily on Freepik)
The power generated from Teraco's Free State solar plant will be wheeled across Eskom and municipal power networks to Teraco's facilities across South Africa.
(Source: Image by ASphotofamily on Freepik)

The data center provider added that it had partnered with JUWI Renewable Energies South Africa and Subsolar to develop the solar PV plant, with JUWI appointed to design and manage the procurement, construction and commissioning.

Wheeling power agreements in SA

To mitigate against the increasing power constraints in South Africa, companies have opted to go off-grid as well as sign wheeling power agreements with the state-owned power company.

In August 2023, telecom operator Vodacom signed a "virtual wheeling agreement" with Eskom, which aims to help accelerate efforts to solve the country's energy crisis.

To bridge energy shortfalls, "wheeling" is a process of moving privately generated power to customers across national government-owned power grids and is gaining traction in South Africa.

In early February 2024, MTN South Africa announced that it had completed more than half of phase one of a solar renewable energy project at its head office in Johannesburg, with the aim of being less reliant on the local strained energy grid.

Scheduled daily power cuts by Eskom – known as load shedding – have become increasingly regular in South Africa as Eskom's electricity supply struggles to meet the country's power demands.

The energy crisis has wide-ranging impacts on all businesses across the country and companies have been forced to look to alternative power solutions during blackouts.

"Wheeling renewable energy across electrical grids enables power to be moved from a renewable energy producer in outlying areas via existing transmission and distribution systems to end-users located in urban areas," Teraco concluded.

It also enables the deployment of renewable energy projects to areas with high energy yield to maximize renewable energy generation potential.

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*Top image source: Technology photo created by pvproductions - www.freepik.com

— Matshepo Sehloho, Associate Editor, Connecting Africa

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