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Oct 05, 2012

Renewable projects set for completion in 2013

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Waste-to-energy company South African Clean Energy (SACE) expects to complete two renewable energy projects in 2013, reveals CEO Dave Kruger.

The first, a biomass-to-energy project, will use unwanted forestry residue from the White River area of Mpumalanga as a feedstock to generate 1.25 MW of electricity.
SACE entered into an agreement with timber-based mine support supplier, Bedrock Mining Support, in November last year, to conduct a feasibility study on using unwanted forestry residue from Bedrock’s plantations as a feedstock for electricity generation.

In May, it appointed SACE to complete a bankable feasibility study for the biomass-to-energy project.

Kruger says Bedrock opted to use in-field residue as a value-adding product and has, to date, used as much timber as possible in its milling operation; however, the removal of the in-field residue is leading to additional costs.

He adds that the feasibility study illustrates that the project is financially viable. The biomass plant, which will comprise five 250 kW biomass gasifier units, will be the first of its size in South Africa to operate on a 24/7 basis, he notes.

The plant will generate 1.25 MW of carbon-neutral electricity at a competitive rate and add capacity to the electricity network, says Kruger.

“The electricity will be sold through a wheeling arrangement with State-owned utility Eskom. “The developer is in the final stages of signing the feedstock and offtake agreements with the relevant parties. The project will create more than 20 full-time jobs and more than 15 part-time jobs.

“It will also reduce the fire risks associated with the in-field residue. The project will be completed during the first half of 2013,” states Kruger.

The biggest milestone for SACE on this project was acquiring a gasifier system that has the potential to produce electricity at competitive rates.

Further, Kruger says it was a highlight for the company to confirm the required feedstock availability for the plant to ensure that there was a guaranteed continual supply of electricity at the rated power.

He notes that this is a known challenge for many proposed projects in South Africa.

Solar Power
Meanwhile, to make headway and expand the solar market in Africa, SACE signed a partnership agreement with Chinese photovoltaic (PV) manufacturer CSUN to install PV panels at numerous projects in Africa. CSUN will provide the tech- nology, while SACE will do the design and facilitate the implementations of the projects.

SACE and CSUN are currently involved in a rooftop PV installation project for a nationwide retail store in Northgate, Gauteng. The company will manufacture and install a rooftop-mounted, grid-tied system that will supply electricity directly to the retail giant.

Discussions for the rooftop project began early this year and are now moving into the implementation phase of the pilot plant. The 170 kW project is expected to be completed in early in 2013.

SACE is also involved in the establishment of a 100 MW solar farm project in Magaliesberg, Gauteng.

The solar farm project is aimed at the mining sector in the surrounding area and is in the prefeasibility stage with the land secured and negotiations with possible clients for the energy offtake under way. The expected completion target for the solar farm is mid-2015.

Meanwhile, Kruger says that, as South Africa is forced to look for alternative energy sources, the country is moving into an exciting phase in terms of renewable energy.

“We have to improve the slow approval and roll-out process of renewable pro- jects by power utility Eskom and government; this slow pace breaks the momentum of these projects. “South Africa has one of the best solar concentrations in the world, with about 86% sunshine days a year.

“Large-scale biomass also has big potential because of its constant, 24/7 energy delivery and with proper planting and harvesting programmes, it’s also sustainable and creates permanent jobs,” he says.

Edited by: Chanel de Bruyn
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