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Solar Water Heating & Enviromental News in South Africa

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Eskom challenges need to be addressed urgently, or South Africa will sink – Gigaba

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba on Thursday painted a grim picture of the financial challenges facing power utility Eskom, stating that the national fiscus would be unable to bail the State-owned enterprise (SOE) out in the event of a default. Speaking at a pre-World Economic Forum (WEF) breakfast, in Sandton, he said the financial crisis at Eskom has reached a stage where government could no longer be “gradualist in addressing the problems that [it] is facing”, adding that senior management at the utility did not seem to grasp the gravity of the current dire situation.

SA’s renewables production costs minimised at high penetration levels, NREL study shows

A new independent study published by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), in the US, concludes that significant production cost savings could be achieved if South Africa added between 60 GW and 100 GW of additional variable renewable energy (VRE) by 2035. The NREL study is a pure production cost analysis that does not interrogate the feasibility or cost of integrating the VRE. In other words, the result offers insight into the amount of money worth investing to integrate each renewable-energy level in order to save on total production cost.

New ‘power-to-X’ prospects may arise as renewables costs continue to fall

The outlook for solar and wind electricity costs to 2020 “presages historically low costs for new renewable electricity”, which could create new economic and industrial opportunities, a new International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) report argues. Released in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, this weekend, the report states that, by 2020, all existing renewable generation technologies will fall within the fossil fuel-fired cost range, with most, notably onshore wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies, at the lower end, or undercutting fossil fuels.

Rwanda, Mauritius get funding for solar PV projects

The Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) and the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) on Monday announced that $25-million in concessional loans from ADFD have been earmarked for solar photovoltaic (PV) projects in Mauritius and Rwanda. The projects have the potential to significantly transform the lives of more than 2.5-million people and alleviate poverty by bringing affordable energy to low-income communities.

Acwa Power buys into blockchain currency

Power generation technology developer Acwa Power has adopted SolarCoin – the global reward programme for solar electricity generation – marking the first time a utility-scale generator joins the SolarCoin ecosystem. SolarCoin will provide digital tokens to Acwa Power for every MWh of solar energy produced and will provide a supplementary means of payment for goods and services than conventional currency.

Solar steam powers homes – and new jobs – in South Africa

South Africa may still get most of its energy from coal, but in the country’s sunny Northern Cape province, a different electricity source is taking hold: solar steam. A Spanish renewable energy company has opened three thermal solar plants – which use the sun’s heat to create electricity - in the province.

Calls made for far-reaching Eskom restructuring as sustainability risks mount

Eskom’s current financial situation makes it difficult to see any other path to sustainability than that of drastic cost-cutting, restructuring and bringing private equity into the business, Energy Intensive Users Group of Southern Africa (EIUG) past chairperson Piet van Staden argues. In an opinion article published by EE Publishers, Van Staden also called for urgent intervention by government to avoid an Eskom default, which would take “the whole economy down with it”.

Ethiopia signs $4bn deal to build 1 000 MW-geothermal power plants

Ethiopia has signed an agreement to build two geothermal power plants at a combined cost of $4-billion, to be run by the country's first privately-owned utility. The Corbetti and Tulu Moye plants will produce a combined 1 000 MW of power upon completion in eight years time in the volcanically-active Rift Valley south of the capital Addis Ababa.

Nersa grants Eskom's tariff hike, but not 20%

South Africa's National Energy Regulator (Nersa) has declined Eskom request for a 20% hike, instead granting Eskom a 5.2% hike. The regulator is due to publish a document outlining the decision in the next couple of days, Nersa chair Jacob Modise said. The 5.23% tariff increase, announced by the regulator on Friday, is closely aligned with inflation in the country, as measured by the increase in South Africa's consumer price index (CPI). Cash-strapped Eskom which has been engulfed in a governance crisis had said it needs high electricity prices increases to shore up its balance sheet.

CPV plant’s success contributes to economic growth

Being the only concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) power plant of its kind in South Africa currently, independent power producer Pele Energy Group senior asset manager Ziska Mc Gilton says the 36 MW ac Touwsrivier CPV project is continuously providing economic upliftment and support for surrounding communities. “The basic principle of a CPV system is that it converts light energy into electrical energy, as conventional PV technology does, but using an advanced optical system which allows for focusing a large area of sunlight onto a tiny high-efficiency solar cell.”

Longmeadow solar PV project nearing completion

Solar power specialist Energy Partners (EP) Solar has invested in a photovoltaic (PV) solar system to power South African retailer Pick n Pay’s Longmeadow distribution centre, in Modderfontein, Gauteng. The project is currently about 80% complete and will be fully operational by the end of January. EP Solar CEO Manie de Waal explains that the 2.34 MWp system comprises 7 200 solar modules, 111 km of direct current cables and 14 800 non-penetrative brackets, and can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 3 490 t/y.

Successful solar PV project exemplified for SA uptake

The “tremendous” success of the Robben Island solar photovoltaic (PV) microgrid project lends itself to “fantastic” replication potential, as it serves as a model example for retrofitting existing energy systems with solar and batteries to significantly reduce fossil fuel consumption and stabilise energy supply, proclaims solar energy company SOLA Future Energy CEO Dominic Wills. “The microgrid has been running in auto mode for a few months, with negligible issues, and it has produced 187 000 kWh of clean electricity through solar power during its first two months of operation.”

Data analytics trends spill over into energy sector

The vision of a low-carbon future allied with advances in the information technology sector are set to become game changers that will shift the future energy landscape as technology gives rise to peripheral industries and cross-sector transformations. The future of energy generation is embedded in the advancement of smart technologies, with developments in energy storage technology, electric vehicles, distributed generation, inter-regional integration, microgrids, smart integrated infrastructure (SII) and smart grids the tip of the iceberg for this sector that continues to face complex headwinds.

SA power plant listed 4th dirtiest in world's 'Dirty Dozen'

South Africa’s Thabametsi project has been listed as one of the “Dirty Dozen projects”, twelve fossil fuel projects worldwide environmental groups say exemplify the massive volumes of public finances still flowing to fossil fuel projects, which are driving climate change. The list comes as world leaders and global financial institutions gathered on Tuesday for the One Planet Summit in Paris, organised by President Emmanuel Macron and the French government.

New JV to develop small-scale Zambian hydropower projects

The New Africa Power joint venture (JV) plans to develop a 65 MW portfolio of small-scale, run-of-the-river hydropower projects in Zambia. The JV, established by Nairobi-based energy holding company responsAbility Renewable Energy, international finance institution Norfund and investment company Vineyard, has committed $4.6-million for the feasibility phase of the development, which is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2018.

AfDB grants loan support to two African renewable energy projects

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has approved $324-million in loan support to two renewable energy projects in Morocco and Côte d’Ivoire that are expected to significantly increase power supplies and boost economic growth in those countries.

SAPVIA launches ‘bold’ 5-point plan for solar industrialisation

The South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA) has announced a “bold” five-point plan for the solar photovoltaic (PV) industry to drive industrialisation, create jobs, and contribute to economic growth. Speaking at the Energy Indaba held at Gallagher Estate in Midrand, on Friday, SAPVIA chairperson Davin Chown highlighted solar energy as an untapped resource that can be used in ways that deliver economic benefits across the depth and breadth of South Africa.

Cabinet approves long-awaited IRP update

Creamer Media’s Samantha Herbst talks to Engineering News editor Terence Creamer about the newly approved IRP and what this means for South Africa’s energy mix.

Jasco slashes carbon footprint with solar energy solution

Technology solutions provider Jasco’s Power Solutions & Renewable Energy team will leverage its experiences from its successful solar project as a base for understanding the engineering, procurement and construction requirements for solar energy systems in high-end residential, commercial and small-scale utility projects. In 2015, Jasco realised the opportunity to become a leader in the field of renewable energy, and honed its expertise by establishing a solar project at its own head office complex.

Quality reprioritised in local battery market

With its battery anti-theft solution successfully protecting more than 15 000 lead acid batteries in South Africa, battery and related-components supplier Aztec is seeing an increase in demand for premium quality batteries with a longer operating life.

No further IRP consultations as Cabinet approves plan and 27 renewables projects

Energy Minister David Mahlobo reported on Thursday that Cabinet approved an updated Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for electricity during a marathon 12-hour meeting on Wednesday and that the new plan would be published without any further public consultation. Briefing the media at an ‘Energy Indaba’ convened by the Department of Energy (DoE), Mahlobo said the updated plan had retained the relative contributions of each of the generation technologies included in the IRP 2010. However, the mix had been adjusted for a lower demand forecast.

Zuma promises ‘seamless’ ANC transition at energy indaba that sidesteps IRP debate

President Jacob Zuma used his address at the Energy Indaba, taking place in Johannesburg this week, to assure business and investors that the upcoming African National Congress (ANC) elective conference would be “orderly and peaceful”, while promising a “seamless” handover to the new ANC president. Addressing more than 1 000 energy stakeholders, including business executives, union representatives, government officials and diplomats, Zuma acknowledged the prevailing high levels of anxiety within the business community over the ANC leadership contest, which will culminate in elections at the conference scheduled for Johannesburg between December 16 and 20.

Renewables-heavy mix is South Africa’s cheapest option, yet another study confirms

A new, independently produced techno-economic model of South Africa’s cost-optimal power generation mix in 2040 outlines a system where 69% of the electrical energy is produced from onshore wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) generators, supported by batteries and gas-fired generators. Conducted by the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies (FIAS), the study concludes that there will be no need for the addition of new coal or nuclear power stations beyond what is already installed.

Globeleq increases stake in South African renewables projects

Electricity generation project developer, owner and operator Globeleq has increased its shareholding in the Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm, as well as in the De Aar Solar and Droogfontein Solar projects in South Africa by acquiring Mainstream Renewable Power’s minority shareholdings in the three projects.  Globeleq will fund the acquisition through a mix of internal funds and available credit facilities. 

Civil rights groups voice opposition to ‘rushed’ Energy Indaba

Twenty-three South African civil rights and environmental activist groups have sent a letter to Energy Minister David Mahlobo seeking clarity on the nature and purpose of the upcoming Energy Indaba, scheduled for December 7 to 8 in Johannesburg. “It appears that the indaba will relate to the ongoing draft Integrated Energy Plan (IEP) and the draft update to the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for electricity. While we welcome – and insist on – the opportunity to participate in any decision on South Africa’s energy future, we write to convey our serious objections in relation to the process that has been followed,” the civil rights groups said in a combined statement.

South Africa assesses battery energy storage prospects

Creamer Media’s Samantha Herbst talks to Engineering News editor Terence Creamer about the future of battery energy storage in South Africa.

Grid operators turning to batteries as costs fall and need for flexibility rises

The standalone cost of battery energy storage remains above South Africa’s prevailing, albeit rising, electricity tariffs, but could already be commercially viable in some instances when the “stacked benefits” of the technology are taken into account. A levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) study undertaken by Mott MacDonald Africa, based on a vanadium redox flow solution raging in size from 1 MW (6 MWh) to 20 MW (120 MWh), calculated the LCOE of battery storage to be between $0.23/kWh and $0.45/kWh.

De Aar wind projects connected to the grid

The 96.48 MW De Aar and the 138.96 MW De Aar 2 North wind projects have successfully reached early operations and have been connected to the Hydra transmission substation. The projects, located near De Aar, in the Northern Cape, were selected as preferred bidders under Round 3 of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme.

Wärtsilä to build utility-scale solar power plant in Nigeria

Technology group Wärtsilä has been awarded the engineering, procurement and construction contract for its first utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant, in Nigeria. The 75MW plant is being developed by Pan Africa Solar and, when operational, will be the largest in Nigeria; and one of the largest on the African continent, with output to the grid expected to serve 1.1-million households with electricity.

Steel Awards 2017 confirms LSFB growth

This year’s annual Steel Awards, hosted by the Southern African Institute of Steel Construction, showed excellent growth for the South African light steel frame building (LSFB) industry, with more than 25 000 m2 represented in category entries. The awards, which took place on September 13, saw 19 projects entered into the LSFB category by seven leading Southern African Light Steel Frame Building Association (Sasfa) members from around the country. The majority of the project entries came from Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State and the Eastern Cape, making up 75% of entries. The rest of the entries came from the remainder of the provinces.

Microgrids add new arrow to Africa’s electricity access quiver

The launch of a R25-million solar energy, lithium-ion battery storage microgrid on Robben Island – the World Heritage Site in Table Bay, Cape Town, which, until recently, relied on diesel to generate electricity – not only showcases the versatile advantages of microgrid technology, but also underscores the potential to use microgrids to accelerate electricity access. In Africa, where millions are still without modern energy services, migrogrid technology is increasingly being considered as a serious remedy for addressing energy poverty in the absence of enabling grid infrastructure. In addition, commercial enterprises, from mines to shopping malls, are assessing microgrid investments as a way of lowering energy costs, diversifying sources of supply and locking in price certainty.

Power and utilities drone market worth more than $9bn

The international drone market comprising solutions that use drones for the power and utilities industries is worth as much as $9.46-billion a year, according to a report published by professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Africa specialist punts local presence as key to capitalising as infrastructure spend set to boom

Through innovation in the energy sphere, Africa is slowly starting to overcome historical blockages that have prevented the continent from achieving economic growth and creating sustainable jobs, according to energy consultancy Africa House director Duncan Bonnett. Speaking at a PowerGen and DistribuTECH breakfast in Sandton on Thursday, Bonnett noted that such blockages as a lack of urbanisation masterplans in cities, a lack of finance and market access, a lack of reliable power and transport utilities in the continent’s industrial sectors, and a lack of finance and ancillary infrastructure in the information and communication technology, telecommunications and power sectors, still held back many countries on the continent.

Robben Island inaugurates solar PV microgrid

Robben Island, a World Heritage Site in Table Bay, Cape Town has gone green with the installation of a R25-million solar energy, lithium-ion battery storage microgrid. Mia Breytenbach has the details.

Two South Africans shortlisted for engineering innovation prize

Two young South Africans are among the 16 engineers hailing from seven countries in Africa, who have been chosen for the shortlist of the prestigious Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation. University of the Witwatersrand chemical engineering research fellow Collins Saguru has developed AltMet, an economical, environmentally sustainable process to recover and reuse precious metals found in the autocatalytic converters of petrol and diesel vehicles. “This recycling process addresses the demand for precious platinum group metals (PGMS) in a way that is profitable and environmentally sustainable,” he said of his invention.

Funding made available to advance Burkina Faso solar project

The Banque Internationale pour le Commerce, l’Industrie et l’Artisanat du Burkina (BICIAB), a BNP Paribas Group subsidiary, will provide $16.5-million in financing to Eren Renewable Energy for a 15 MW solar power plant that is under construction in Burkina Faso. The funding was granted to Essakane Solar, the project venture that owns the power plant.

Eskom’s ‘death spiral’ under the microscope

A major topic of discussion during recent public hearings into Eskom’s 2018/19 revenue application, was whether a further double-digit tariff hike could trigger a “utility death spiral”, whereby rising tariffs and utility costs spark an exodus of energy-intensive customers from the network, leaving the remaining customers with ever escalating power bills. The Energy Intensive Users Group (EIUG), representing Eskom’s 32 largest mining and industrial customers, which collectively consume 40% of the country’s electrical energy, was particularly vociferous in its warnings. However, Business Unity South Africa also highlighted the threat, noting that Eskom’s combined sales to industy and mining were already 14% below 2011 levels. If granted, Eskom’s revenue application “would trigger further defections from the grid,” the business body cautioned.