Solar Energy

WSP is a leader in solar power technology, setting benchmarks and winning awards for innovation. 



WSP supports the industry’s leading developers, lenders and constructors, and provides expertise in solar energy engineering and technical advisory services. We help clients in evaluating solar resource potential and provide design, procurement, cost-benefit analysis, implementation, commissioning, operation and monitoring across the range of solar technologies.

Solar PV plants delivering some of the world’s cheapest power quickly and effectively to established and emerging economies. Floating solar PV plants delivering power and reducing evaporative losses. Solar power combined with battery systems delivering dependable power at utility scale. Façade and rooftop solar panels installed on public buildings. Renewable energy support mechanisms and sustainability policies adopted by governments and private sector investment. Solar technology that allows the production of electricity, irrespective of overcast skies or nightfall. As solar technological innovation evolves at unimaginable speeds, it is undeniably continuing to disrupt conventional thinking with respect to energy planning.

Converting sunlight to generate electricity is attracting increased interest as it can be used to counter energy security concerns over fossil fuel dependency, decrease carbon emissions and reduce harmful emissions that contribute to climate change, as well as help secure energy costs to achieve financial and environmental sustainability. Furthermore, solar projects are less demanding to execute than large hydro, nuclear and most thermal power ventures and, at a utility scale, they can help alleviate some of the burdens associated with delivering much needed power to underdeveloped or remote areas with minimal access to power. 

Supporting Communities, Investors and Developers Alike

While mega projects will remain a top priority on the continent, utility-scale solar has the potential to alleviate some of the burdens associated with delivering much-needed base-load power to national grids. This includes the high costs associated with developing large hydropower, gas, coal and nuclear power plants. Solar energy projects are also less demanding to execute than large hydro, nuclear and most thermal power ventures.

Developments in the field continue to improve the overall efficiencies of these power stations, especially developments such as concentrated photo-voltaic (CPV) systems and concentrated solar power (CSP) systems. They will also play an important role in energising remote and outlying areas that are restricted by grid access. In many instances, it would simply not be possible to connect these areas to centralised energy plants. These technologies can be deployed close to the source of demand. 

CPV deploys highly efficient solar cells in combination with tracker systems or curved mirrors to increase the power produced from the sunlight, while CSP has improved the storage capabilities of parabolic trough solar power, using a system of molten salts to store energy generated during the day.

WSP has worked with independent power producers (IPPs) and lending institutions to develop projects in terms of the South African Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP). We took a pioneering role in this programme when it led the ESIA to Equator Principles for the 500MW Kalahari Solar Power Project – the first concentrated solar power (CSP) project to be brought to feasibility stage in Southern Africa.

Besides the numerous local projects, we have also been involved in solar power projects in Botswana, Zambia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Mali, Gambia and Kenya.
We provide specialist ESIA assessments of all key issues associated with solar projects, including:

  • Surface and groundwater abstraction feasibility studies
  • Visual modelling and impact assessment
  • Soil, land use and land capability assessments

Integrated and Cost-Effective Solar Solutions

Whether in rural and outlying areas restricted by grid access, in northern latitudes or in urban centres, our team can help evaluate solar resource potential, maximise efficiency and cost-effectiveness, and minimise risks associated with small, mid-tier and large-scale solar power projects, as well as assist with integrating solar systems, on and off power grids. 

Alongside a thorough understanding of design issues, our specialist engineers are fully versed in the most recent technologies available for installation.

We offer a vast range of services under the following categories:

  • Planning and site screening
  • Feasibility studies
  • Resource and Energy Yield Assessment (EYA)
  • Conceptual engineering and initial planning
  • Detailed design engineering
  • Technical and Environmental Due Diligence
  • Lender’s Technical Advisor (LTA) or Lender’s Engineer
  • Technical studies such as grid integration and network studies
  • Facility engineering services
  • Environmental and permitting services
  • Construction and commissioning related services (Owner’s Engineer)
  • Project management and implementation programme
  • Operational monitoring
  • Government advisory services

Bringing Solar Energy Projects to Fruition – Around The Globe

WSP has participated in various solar thermal, ground- and building-mounted solar PV arrays, building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), and on and off-grid generation projects around the world, including the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Caribbean, South America, the Middle East, Europe and on our own continent. 

As we help bring our clients’ solar projects to life, we ensure to emphasise sustainability that adds value, delivers the highest quality solutions at the lowest levelised cost of electricity (LCOE), and positively impacts the environment and society as a whole. Below are sample projects where we have helped design with the future in mind.

As owner’s engineer, WSP is currently supporting a client during the start-up, commissioning and performance acceptance testing of a solar project in the US southwest. Our team is facilitating the transition of project operations from the general contractor to plant owner, and providing a technical interface with equipment vendors and other contractors during start-up.

WSP is providing technical advisory services through an independent assessment of the net energy yield for a portfolio of solar PV projects in South America. Each project is under 9 MW AC and will sell energy at a stabilised price as part of the country’s Small Means of Distributed Generation programme. Deliverables include PVsyst reports, energy yield assessment reports, and site visits to determine constructability/suitability issues.

With respect to feasibility studies, WSP is working on the development of a roof- and parking canopy-mounted for solar PV generating capacity in the Caribbean. Our team supplied a pre-feasibility study including site assessment and data collection, review of meteorological data, conceptual engineering design and cost estimates, energy yield assessment and system optimisation, and financial analysis. While the study is now complete, the project meets the technical and financial performance goals specified by the client, and will be taken next to a tender process to retain the services of a design-build contractor.

WSP delivered the environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) for the Kalahari Solar Power Project, the first concentrated solar power project in southern Africa to be brought to feasibility stage, on behalf of Group Five. We also managed the stakeholder consultation process which was of great significance given the potential changes to the landscape.

We were appointed as the lender’s engineer to an international financial institution seeking to finance a renewable energy developer with a portfolio of solar PV projects in the Middle East. The project sites utilised both thin film and polycrystalline technology with various system designs. Ranging from 0.59 MWp to 11 MWp, the licensed and unlicensed projects included one operational plant, seven plants under construction, and 10 further sites under development. WSP identified technical issues outlining country-specific processes and risks involved, which allowed our client to make informed decisions on their potential investment.

As sustainability consultant, WSP mapped out the ‘net zero carbon’ strategy for Graylingwell Park’s new build and retrofit housing project, a flagship zero-carbon community under development in southern England. As solar PV is a key element in the development’s renewable strategy, we handled this aspect of the project from resource assessment to functional specification and tender.

We provided layout and energy assessment, specifications review and evaluation of perspective bidders, for a 90 MW solar facility across two projects in Zambia. Intrusive surveys were performed with the support of a local partner and included topographic, geotechnical, hydrology, water sources and seismic studies.  Technical review of the Power Purchase Agreement and Government Support Agreement documentation was also undertaken, as well as grid connection design and grid studies.   WSP also provided a scoping report and terms of reference for the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment to be tendered out and performed by a local consultant.

Groundbreaking projects in Africa

Kalahari Solar Power Project

Due to the number of proposed developments in the area with insufficient power to support them, we were appointed to help convert the region’s plentiful sunlight into a reliable energy source. The solar project saw 450MW generated over three phases on a site that covers 1 922ha on the farm Kathu 465, near Kathu in the Northern Cape.. 

The team carried out a number of detailed studies to determine the most appropriate technologies, the shape and size of the development and the necessary steps to mitigate its environmental impact. We also carried out a detailed water feasibility assessment to analyse potential supplies and their impact on local and regional resources, proving the viability of the project  

With all assessments completed successfully, the project was constructed in three phases, each yielding up to 150MW, giving an enormous boost to the community and developments.

Biotherm Photovoltaic (Pv) Environmental and Social Impact Assessment

Our client is a leading renewable energy project development and financing company. They own, develop, construct and operate solar and wind energy projects in South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. 

We were appointed to undertake the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment for the Enamandla solar Photovoltaic (PV) project in the Northern Cape, which was developed in terms of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP), established by the South African Department of Energy, to contribute towards the renewable energy industry. 

One of the key challenges was to delineate development boundaries with the least impact on environmentally and socially sensitive areas. To achieve this, our client needed detailed environmental and social (including cultural heritage) data synthesised to produce integrated sensitivity maps. 

We provided extensive insights into the environmental and social aspects and regulatory requirements associated with projects falling under the REIPPPP. Our team was responsible for the majority of the specialist investigations and impact assessments including wetlands, noise, soils and agricultural potential, and socio-economic, and traffic and water (availability). 

Vodacom Century City 

The installation of a 542kWp photovoltaic array on the Vodacom Century City building in Cape Town is the largest single-roof photovoltaic solar array in Africa. 

Windiga Energy Inc., Burkina Faso (2015)

Updating and Upgrading of the ESIA and RAP Studies Prepared for the Proposed Zina 22MW Solar Power Plant.

BrightSource Energy South Africa (Pty) Ltd., South Africa (2015)

EIA Process for the Solis II 125MW Commercial CSP facility.

International

6MW CSP demonstration plant and full scale 125MW CSP facility.

Group Five Construction (Pty) Ltd., South Africa (2011)

ESIA in compliance to Equator Principles, of a 500MW power plant, powered by a CSP farm covering  1 922ha near Kathu, Northern Cape.

Finance Corporation (IFC), Zambia (2015)

Technical support to the scaling solar initiative in Zambia. Review of RFPs and PPAs and potential Bidders Expressions of Interest for the first Phase of the initiative targeting 100MWp of Solar PV plants near Lusaka.

Sasol New Energy Holdings (Pty) Ltd., South Africa (2013)

EIA Process for 3.

Power network projects in Africa

Independent Engineer services for Enel Green Power

ENEL Green Power built four solar PV farms under the third round of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPP) in South Africa.  WSP was appointed to the role of Independent Engineer on each project to provide the Certification Services and Additional Services to the PPA.  The PPA sets out that an Independent Engineer is required to act in the best interests of both the Seller (ENEL) and the Buyer (ESKOM).

Lenders Technical Advisor for a two solar farms to be developed under the Renewable Energy Program

The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) along with Nedbank Bank South Africa appointed WSP to be the Lenders Technical Advisor of two solar farms in the Northern Cape of South Africa to be developed under the fourth round of the Renewable Energy Program. WSP principally provided comprehensive due diligence reports for each of the projects; design reviews included the solar panels and inverters, electrical components, civil concerns as well as technical feasibility. WSP also reviewed the Energy Yield Assessments and Financial Model for the projects. A site visit was undertaken to assess the site logistics and conditions. 

Lenders Technical Advisor for a two solar farms to be developed under the Renewable Energy Program

The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) along with Nedbank Bank South Africa appointed WSP to be the Lenders Technical Advisor of two solar farms in the Northern Cape of South Africa to be developed under the first round of the Renewable Energy Program. WSP principally provided comprehensive due diligence reports for each of the projects; design reviews included the solar panels and inverters, electrical components, civil concerns as well as technical feasibility. WSP also reviewed the Energy Yield Assessments and Financial Model for the projects. A site visit was undertaken to assess the site logistics and conditions. WSP also provided services to support the Lenders during the solar park construction phase with the review of the project documentation, project progress against the baseline schedule, review of Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT) results and the witnessing of Site Acceptance Testing (SAT).

Technical Advisory Services to Renewable Energy Projects for the National Department of Tourism

The National Department of Tourism of South Africa (NDT) appointed WSP as the Technical Advisor/Owners Engineer to render support, advisory and supervision services for the development and construction of several renewable energy projects at state-owned tourism attractions. The following four identified tourism attraction sites were identified for the Pilot project phase: Robben Island Museum in the Western Cape Province; Hantam National Botanical Garden in the Northen Cape Province, Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden in the Western Cape Province and Free State National Botanical Garden. WSP provided technical advisory services for the full life cycle of the engineering and construction of these projects including: development of the scope of works for each project, conceptual and preliminary engineering of the full solution including solar, battery systems, and grid connections, preliminary energy yield assessments for all selected sites, environmental authorisations required, and full specification and tender documentation production including assistance during the procurement of contractors, assistance during contract negotiations, project management and construction supervision, and oversight of execution of the environmental management plan.

DeAar Solar Power Station Integration Study 

WSP (under the former name of Parsons Brinckerhoff Africa) was contracted by ACED Renewables to perform a high level integration study to determine the phasing of connection options for up to six new 75MW Photo Voltaic (PV) power stations connecting to the Eskom (South African utility) grid at Hydra Transmission Substation and at Bletterman Traction Substation. Cost effective means of increasing the evacuation capacity were also investigated and their costs quantified.At the time of project execution, Eskom had no PV generators connected to their grid and was trying to diversify their generation mix by the inclusion of renewable generation by independent power producers (IPPs).

Intikon Solar Power Station Integration Study

WSP (under the former name of Parsons Brinckerhoff Africa) was contracted by Intikon Energy to perform a high level study on the integration of an 80MW Photo Voltaic (PV) power station into the Eskom (South African utility) grid at the 132kV Soutdrift substation near Bloemfontein. At the time of project execution, Eskom had no PV generators connected to their grid and was trying to diversify their generation mix by the inclusion of renewable generation by independent power producers (IPPs).

Groenwater Solar Power Station Integration Study

WSP (under the former name of Parsons Brinckerhoff Africa) was contracted by Solar Reserve South Africa to perform a high level integration study to determine the maximum size of a new Photo Voltaic (PV) power station connecting to the Eskom (South African utility) grid at a new substation located between the Clifton and Groenwater traction substations near Postmasburg. Cost effective means of increasing the evacuation capacity were also investigated and their costs quantified. At the time of project execution, Eskom had no PV generators connected to their grid and was trying to diversify their generation mix by the inclusion of renewable generation by independent power producers (IPPs).

Upington Solar Park Study for Eskom Transmission

WSP (under the former name of Parsons Brinckerhoff Africa) was commissioned by Eskom to carry out a transmission integration study for a 1000MW Solar Generation Park near Upington in the Northern Cape of South Africa. It is the government of South Africa’s intention to connect first power by 2012 and most of the Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) and Photovoltaic (PV) generation by 2016.