South Africa has identified three new onshore areas as renewable energy development zones (REDZs) as the country aims to increase the penetration of wind and solar in its future energy mix.

Phase two of the country’s Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) has proposed two areas in the central north-east of the country and another in the central south for future development projects.

The two new REDZs for solar photovoltaic (PV) projects are REDZ9 in Emalahleni and REDZ10 in Klerksdorp to the north-east, with REDZ11 in Beaufort West focused on wind energy.

The areas were chosen after considering factors such as the abundance of existing wind and solar PV energy resources, access to power corridors and likely environmental impacts.

The first phase of wind and solar SEA was completed in 2015, identifying eight REDZs, located in the centre, south and west of the country. These were all gazette for implementation by the Ministry for Environmental Affairs in February last year.

“The objective of the SEAs is to identify areas in the country that are best suited for wind and solar PV energy projects, based on a holistic assessment of technical, strategic planning, environmental and socioeconomic criteria,” the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) said.

“Renewable energy projects that could be developed in these new REDZ have the potential to make significant contributions to mine rehabilitation and to support a just energy transition in the specified areas including where 12 GW of existing coal power stations are planned to be decommissioned by 2030,” it added.

South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan of 2019 has identified the requirement for at least and additional 14.4 GW of wind and 6 GW of solar power capacity by 2030, on top of other new-build energy capacity, such as gas and coal.

“There is a distinct need for rehabilitating areas where existing coal power stations are expected to decommission and possibly repurposing these for a range of diverse economic activities including renewable energy deployment which can be fast tracked if within the new REDZs,” the CSIR said.