South Africa plans a solar power park

Image caption Spain has been at the forefront of pioneering solar schemes

South Africa plans to invest in a solar power energy park in order to help meet increasing electricity demands, the department of energy has announced.

The country experienced rolling blackouts in 2008 and has been rationing electricity ever since.

The solar park will be built in the Northern Cape Province and generate 5,000 megawatts of energy, about 11% of the country's current power capacity.

Officials said a new nuclear power plant was also being considered.

At the moment most of South Africa's electricity is generated from coal-fired power stations.

The energy department says the country needs to increase its energy production by 40,000 megawatts over the next 10 years.

South Africa also supplies electricity to a few neighbouring countries, including Zimbabwe.

Energy Minister Dipuo Peters said a study done last year showed that the Northern Cape was the ideal location for the park.

The solar park would also create up to 12,300 construction jobs and more than 3,000 operations and maintenance jobs, she said.

The project could run into billions of dollars, but the government says the private sector would absorb most of the expenses.

It hopes investors will come forward at a conference it is hosting next month.

Plans for a new nuclear plant are more controversial.

South Africa already has one plant that produces 1,930 megawatts.

Officials say if obstacles are overcome and financing is found for a new nuclear plant, it could provide up to 50% of future power needs.

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