Upington has long been defined by the production of export-quality grapes, raisins and wines cultivated on the rich flood plains of the Orange River. However, the town — along with Kathu and Bokpoort — is well positioned to reap the unlikely benefits of SA’s growing focus on renewable energy, especially solar. Over the past few years, the Northern Cape has attracted a raft of renewable-energy firms, keen to set up shop in SA’s sunny desert region, now also a special economic zone. "There is the Aries Solar Energy Facility in Kenhardt and the Bokpoort Concentrated Solar Power Project in Groblershoop, both of which are operational. At least four more projects are in different phases at the moment," says Harold McGluwa, a constituency leader in the area and chairman of the opposition DA in the Northern Cape. Also recently launched was a solar plant, estimated at a cost of R12.6m, to meet the energy needs of Upington’s airport. While solar projects have not displaced agriculture’s impor...

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