Washington, D.C., September 20, 2012 — The board of directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corp. (OPIC), the U.S. government's development finance institution, approved up to $250 million for the agency's first solar power project in South Africa, a 60 MW plant that will help diversify the country's electricity generation beyond its heavy coal concentration and in the process displace about 140,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions in its first year alone.
According to a release, the project came about in response to the new Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Program, a South African government initiative that aims to increase investment in renewable energy production, especially solar power, with a goal of having 3,725 MW online by 2016. By involving two local firms as co-sponsors along with its U.S. investors, the project will also help South Africa meet the Black Economic Empowerment objectives of the program.
Officials said the OPIC financing will enable two U.S. companies, MEMC Electronic Materials and its unit SunEdison, to construct and operate a solar photovoltaic plant in Boshoff in South Africa's Free State province. All electricity generated by the plant will be sold to the national grid through a power-purchase agreement.
MEMC, based in St. Peters, Missouri, is a global manufacturer of PV wafers and related products for the semiconductor and solar industries. Through its SunEdison subsidiary acquired in 2009, MEMC is also a developer of solar power projects and is a solar energy services provider.
Established as an agency of the U.S. government in 1971, OPIC is the U.S. government's development finance institution.