On the Road to … Commissioning the Largest PV Power Plant in South Africa

Giovanna di Baccoby Giovanna di Bacco (guest post), , 0 Comments
Alessandro Conti inspecting the TCS connection

A big challenge was requested to SMA Service technicians: Alessandro Conti from Italy and six Service employees from Germany were in charge of commissioning the largest PV power plant in Africa – in only 10 days. It was really hot and the work was challenging under such unfavorable access conditions. However, in the end, everything worked out well. Alessandro tells us his experience, ranging from the exciting country and its culture to a fantastic team.


Hard Work for a Large-Scale PV project

Alessandro Conti from SMA Italy and six SMA Service team members set off for South Africa between September 8 and September 21, 2013. Conti flew from Milan to Kalkbult to work on the largest PV power plant in Africa. The main goal of the project, which involved a special international team, was to have the plant commissioned by September 27, as requested by Scatec Solar AS, the EPC of the plant, and the team met their target date.

Plans called for Alessandro’s work in South Africa to only involve the communication and monitoring system of the PV plant. However, in actuality he was involved in the entire commissioning process to ensure the schedule was met. The international team was composed of Alessandro, the Italian Service senior expert, two German employees from the Service international team and four Service employees from SMA South Africa.
“The Kalkbult PV power plant is located in one of the world’s sunniest places. It was a big logistical challenge to build PV power plants of this magnitude in areas so difficult to access,” Alessandro said after returning to Italy. The Kalkbult PV power plant is the largest PV power plant in all of Africa, and SMA has already successfully outfitted the 75 MW project with 84 Sunny Central 800 CP XT inverters. The Kalkbult project is the first of four PV power plants that will be installed in the same area in the next few months.


The 75 MW plant in Kalkbutt is the biggest one in South-Africa.

The 75 MW plant in Kalkbutt is the biggest one in South-Africa.

An Unforgettable Experience

During his visit to South Africa, Alessandro and other employees had the chance to get to know the African culture and way of life. They stayed in a guest house in a typical village with few inhabitants, not far from the PV plant. “We didn’t have any free time, so unfortunately we didn’t have the chance to visit the cities around,” Alessandro said. “But we all stayed together in a guest house, ate with the locals and chatted with them about their culture. I’ll keep the evening in which we had a big barbecue, celebrating their national Braai Day, as a memory of the days spent,” Alessandro said.


“I was used to our colleagues from around the world coming to Italy to support our national team in commissioning and maintenance of various PV power plants, said Alessandro. “However, this was my first work experience abroad and it was a great. Today’s Italian PV market has changed and we export our knowledge abroad, for example to Romania, France and the U.K. This was the first time that an Italian Service employee went beyond the EMEA regions. I’m so glad that the international team chose me to work on this important PV project.”

Allesandro Conti

A. Conti


Alessandro is a senior expert at SMA Italy. Since last September he has been working with other SMA employees in the Regional Competence Center, supporting various projects in the EMEA region. He will leave for South Africa again in the next few weeks to work on another PV power plant.


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