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Roll-out of 100000 solar water heaters resumes

Posted by: Yes Solar Cape (Cape Town, South Africa) – 15 September 2010

Three ground-breaking renewable energy projects earmarked for Nelson Mandela Bay with a combined investment value of more than R1-billion are on track, with at least one to start being implemented before the end of the year, top project officials have revealed.

Solar hot water. Evacuated tube installation.

They include the resumed roll- out of up to 100000 solar water heaters (high-pressure solar-powered geysers) to residents after the R900-million project was put on ice in June, as well as a proposed wind farm at Van Stadens consisting of up to 15 giant wind turbines, and methane gas harvesting facilities at the Arlington or Koedoeskloof waste disposal sites.

Because the three projects are being funded by ETA Energy Ltd – a subsidiary of parastatal the Central Energy Fund (CEF) – they are on track and unaffected by the Bay municipality’s cash-flow problems which has seen many infrastructure projects halted.

The three projects will see the metro catapulted to the forefront of attempts by cities around the country to minimise their dependence on energy provider Eskom and its steep annual price increases by “going green”.

The senior project officials who gave The Herald details about the three schemes cannot be named as they are not allowed to speak directly to the media, while CEF spokesman Mandla Tyala said he was on leave and could not comment on the issue until next week.

Questions posed to the municipality about the projects yesterday were not answered at the time of going to print.

The solar water heater project will see residents who opt to have their traditional geysers replaced pay ETA Energy back in the form of debits on their municipal accounts over six years. The municipal billing system for the geysers, on behalf of ETA, will be monitored by other cities around the country hoping to do the same.

Initial cost estimates for a 200l water heater are about R14000, equating to roughly R7500 for the geyser, R3500 for installation and an additional R3000 towards the 10-year maintenance plan and debt servicing over the six-year repayment period.

It remains to be seen to what extent residents buy into the scheme, which essentially saves an average family of four up to 300 units of electricity monthly, or R200, while the cost of “going green” will cost them about R350 a month over six years, and thereafter nothing.

In June, just two months after announcing the start of a R10-million pilot project for 500 solar water heaters to be installed, ETA Energy announced the entire plan had been halted indefinitely.

An application by the Department of Energy to National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) requesting that the department take over administering a government subsidy towards renewable energy projects, which is currently paid by Eskom to CEF, has seen CEF’s renewable energy projects countrywide put on hold, officials said.

If the department’s application to Nersa is successful, banks will be able to administer the subsidy to the man on the street, making such projects unprofitable for CEF.

But despite the pending decision by Nersa, the Energy Department has agreed to honour ETA Energy’s Bay projects because they are at such an advanced stage.

The final environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the Van Stadens wind farm is with the Department of Environmental Affairs, for a record of decision (RoD) which is expected by the end of October.

Assuming a positive RoD, a preferred developer could be selected by as early as March next year, after which it would take 14 months to get the project operational.

While concern has been raised over the noise levels of the wind turbines, project managers believe the new fourth generation turbines are as close to silent as possible.

The project will see up to 23MW added to the city’s power supply.

Also expected to get a positive RoD is the EIA for harvesting methane gas from the city’s two major waste disposal sites, which is also with the department with an answer expected by November.

Gas collection and flaring – needed to assess each landfill’s potential for emitting methane – could begin as soon as May next year, after gas collection infrastructure has been installed. After that, it could take six to nine months for the generators to be commissioned and installed. It is expected to add a further 6MW to the city’s 650MW power grid.

By: Brian Hayward
Source: Weekend Post

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