The first of two units of a R100-million 7-MW hydropower plant, which is being established near Bethlehem, in the Free State, was finally launched on Friday, with the first power already being sold to a nearby municipality.
Project energy development company NuPlanet MD Anton-Louis Olivier said that the first 3-MW unit at the at the Sol Plaatje Dam had been commissioned, with the second 4-MW unit on private land between Bethlehem and Clarens to be commissioned in April, when Eskom finished the site's interconnection to the national electricity grid.
Olivier told Engineering News Online that it was exciting for the company to get its first unit running and to be able to prove that its concepts work.
The opportunity to develop the hydropower project was first identified in 1999, with development having started in 2001. The project was brought to a financial close in August 2005, and in December 2006, construction started at the two sites.
The project has experienced many delays from an initial commissioning date of February 2008, with cost also increasing from an initially estimated R77-million.
The first power was already being delivered to the nearby Dihlabeng Local Municipality, with the first unit to generate 28GWh/yr of power. Once the second unit came on stream, power generation would increase to 40GWh/y, said Olivier.
Bethlehem Hydro would curb about 33 000 t/y of carbon dioxide, with carbon credits to be sold to a Norwegian State-owned electricity company Stalkraft AS, which had signed a long-term offtake agreement with NuPlanet.
Olivier said that the first carbon credits would be sold to Stalkraft early in 2010.
The launch, on Friday, was crowning a lot of hard work, but was also setting the stage for plenty of future growth, Olivier added.
NuPlanet has identified three more sites next to the As river, the same river along which the other two sites were being established, with the potential to produce an additional 12 MW of hydropower.
Feasibility studies were currently under way, with construction expected to start by the end of 2010 and the first power to come on stream by mid-2012.