RDM starts construction of solar power plant at its Somerset West facility


Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) has begun the construction of a R72 million solar farm at its Somerset West facility, as part of the company’s aim to be carbon neutral by 2035 and independent from loadshedding.

The ground-breaking for the facility was held on 26 April with a ceremony attended by the Premier of the Western Cape, Alan Winde, and Rheinmetall AG CEO Armin Papperger. “Rheinmetall is laying a foundation that will enable us to open up new business areas here at the site to continue to operate successfully in the future and to expand the company’s position in the world markets, at the same time contribute to the well-being and a humane future of all,” said Papperger.

The new 5-megawatt (MW) solar power plant, which will be completed before the end of the year, will be able to power the Somerset West operations of RDM with a high possibility of exporting clean surplus energy back to the grid. RDM aims to construct similar solutions for all its operations across the country.

Rheinmetall Denel Munition CEO Jan-Patrick Helmsen said: “We are laying 9 204 solar panels with the capacity to generate over 4.2 million Watts of AC power for Somerset operations. Reducing our carbon footprints has been our motivation to invest in solar plants. At the same time, we are integrating this Solar PV Power Plant with a fully automated backup power generation that can sustain the solar PV power output, which works like a mini power grid. This will ensure our operation is immune from loadshedding. Incorporating renewable energy in our operations has proven critical for sustainability and energy security.”

Helmsen said that loadshedding has impacted significantly on the company and cost RDM a lot of money last year.

Winde said the Western Cape is in the process of making four towns in the province load-shedding free through renewable energy and thanked Rheinmetall for being part of the energy solution.

RDM is establishing itself as an energy supplier in South Africa for Africa and for the export market through the localization of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, the export of green hydrogen, and production of mobile green hydrogen plants as an independent power solution for various applications.

Last month, during the fifth South Africa Investment Conference (SAIC), RDM committed to investing R251 million in the renewable energy sector in South Africa. During the September 2022 edition of the Africa Aerospace and Defence exhibition, RDM launched its green hydrogen production, storage and transportation solution. This is a complete modular, self-sustaining, renewable de-centralised energy solution. The GESS (green energy sustainable solutions) unit is easy to transport, does not rely on external infrastructure and is robust enough to operate efficiently in several geographical locations. The GESS unit is able to provide approximately 230 kWh of electrical power to a client in a remote and isolated location. This is delivered by means of solar PV panels, lithium-ion batteries and hydrogen fuel cell technology (platinum-catalysed hydrogen proton exchange membrane fuel cell or PEMFC).