The Bokpoort Concentrated Solar Power Plant will add socio-economic value to the area, with about $2m of additional investments each year and 60 permanent employment opportunities during its operational life.

ACWA Power International, a Saudi-based operator of power and desalinated water plants, is set to begin construction of the $525m Bokpoort Concentrating Solar Power Park (CSP) in Groblershoop, Northern Cape, which will add 50MW of clean energy to the national grid.

The concentrating solar power facility is expected to start operating in December 2015. ACWA Power’s first energy project in South Africa is expected to create 900 jobs at the peak of the construction period.

The government’s renewable energy policy has set a target of 4%, or about 10,000GWh, of electricity to be produced from renewable sources by this year. Renewable energy is also seen as crucial in attempts to ease pressure on the country’s electricity grid.

Forming part of South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Procurement Programme, the Bokpoort Power Park will be equipped with the largest thermal storage for a solar power plant of its class and capacity.

The facility will provide electricity to about 21,000 households and save about 230,000 tonnes of CO²-equivalent emissions during every year of operation.

The plant’s thermal storage capacity will be nine hours and 20 minutes, enabling it to yield a record-high generation in excess of 200GWh/year, with power flowing well into the night. This will make the solar power park the only renewable technology at commercial scale able to augment daily peak demand from 5pm to 9pm, helping prevent blackouts.

ACWA Power president and CEO Paddy Padmanathan said the company had placed emphasis on the socioeconomic sustainability "of the nations we serve, and have facilitated maximum levels of South African participation in the entire project".

"In addition to a 5% community shareholding, which far exceeds the government’s minimum 2.5% requirement … ACWA Power … has taken the unusual step of providing funds to Lereko Solafrica Investments, owned by previously disadvantaged citizens, to hold 13% shares in the project on the same terms as is usually provided by government-owned development finance institutions," he said.

ACWA Power chairman Mohammed Bin Abdullah Abunayyan said at a ceremony to launch the construction of the facility on Wednesday that the company decided to expand operations outside the Saudi Arabian market three years ago.