CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South Africa will test investor appetite this year for a solar park that could cost 150 billion rand and generate 5,000 megawatts of power, a government spokesman said on Thursday.
Africa's largest economy is increasingly turning towards renewable energy sources to help plug a chronic power shortage and decrease its dependence on the coal-fired power stations that provide most of its electricity.
Initial projections showed the park would cost about 150 billion rand and construction could start in 2012, depending on investor response, government spokesman Themba Maseko told journalists.
Maseko said a feasibility study by the Department of Energy and the U.S-based Clinton Climate Initiative, had identified Upington in the semi-arid Northern Cape region as a potential site.
"As soon as the feasibility study is completed...it would be presented to an investors conference to test the appetite of investors to actually support an initiative of this nature," Maseko said.
Maseko said the cabinet had endorsed a proposal for an investor conference to be held later this year.
State-owned power utility Eskom , one of the continent's worst polluters, wants to move into renewables and to tap cleaner coal technologies to reduce its carbon footprint.
Eskom, with the help of a World Bank loan, is developing a 100 MW concentrated solar power plant, estimated to cost about 7 billion rand, also in the Northern Cape region.
Maseko said it was possible that Eskom's plant could form part of the proposed giant solar park, which would also create jobs in the region.
"The feasibility study looked at various possibilities, the location, the technologies to be used and whether all existing initiatives including Eskom's own plans would be incorporated into that solar park," he said.