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Sun City solar plant has already seen R1 million in savings

Isolating the luxury resort from the national grid remains management’s ultimate goal. Sun International’s flagship resort Sun City has delivered approximately R1 million in savings in two months, helping the resort gain ground on its projected R3.2 million annual net savings goal.

The resort’s plans to ramp up solar capacity, coupled with conducive weather conditions and improved efficiencies, are expected to usher in greater savings ahead of the festive season, according to management.

“On bulk, currently we are now getting a pure saving [from] the solar, in August alone we saved about R412 000 using the solar and then about R300 000 in September, and as we go into summer, we are expecting that [the savings] to increase [as] the efficiencies increase,” Sun City’s sustainability manager Lwazi Mswelanto tells Moneyweb.

Earlier this year JSE-listed hotel, resort and gaming group announced plans to invest R16 million into a solar plant that would reduce Sun City’s reliance on the battered national grid.

The installation – comprising 2 584 solar photovoltaic panels decked on the approximately 12 000m2 roof of the Sun City Hotel – currently provides about 1.4 megawatts (MW) of capacity to the resort at its peak.

The resort plans to invest a further R1.6 million to add 209 panels to the mega plant. This will see installed capacity ramped up to 1.56MW before the end of the year.

Putting the additional capacity into perspective, Mswelanto says: “Our normal demand is sitting at about 14MW, so if you’re looking at 1.56MW you’re looking at between 10-15% of the total maximum demand for the resort.”

Mswelanto says persistent load shedding, together with Eskom’s load curtailment strategies aimed at preserving whatever’s left of the national grid’s integrity, have cost the resort approximately R5 million in diesel spend so far this year.

Reporting on the performance over the six-month period ended June 2023, Sun International – which also owns Carnival City, The Maslow Hotel and Grand West – informed investors the period had seen an increase in net diesel costs of R60 million.

Independence from Eskom

Resort management confirmed that the Sun City solar farm – projected to have a 25-year lifespan – forms part of the greater plan of gaining total independence from the ailing national grid, for itself and the broader group.

Mswelanto tells Moneyweb the resort is looking into investing in a bigger plant that will help achieve this goal, but says this remains a long-term plan for Sun City.

“I think it’s important that we implement the current project, get the numbers and the savings so that we can have some data that will help us in the feasibility of the next project that we want to go further with. But there are plans in place to grow bigger in terms of sustainable energy.”

Sun City GM Brett Hoppé notes that the plant, while a significant contributor, forms just one part of the resort’s sustainability strategy.

“This is one of the many initiatives that Sun City and Sun International are rolling out to reduce energy use both from a supply and demand perspective. Efficient lighting, HVAC retrofits and reconfigurations, water heating and a gradual move to renewables all form part of the plan,” says Hoppé.

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