Milestone for South African hydropower project

Tasmanian government-owned electricity generator Hydro Tasmania has announced its Neusberg project in South Africa has achieved full scale commercial operation.

The Neusberg project is a run-of-river small hydropower project on the Orange River near Kakamas in the Northern Cape of South Africa. It is the first run-of-river hydropower scheme developed under the Republic of South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer’s Programme (REIPPP) and will deliver 10MW of baseload power in the South African energy market, enough electricity for about 5000 households.

The REIPPP has been designed by South Africa’s Departments of Energy and Treasury to help achieve a target of 3725MW of renewable energy. It aims to support environmentally sustainable growth, and to stimulate the renewable energy industry in South Africa.

Hydro Tasmania director South Africa Christoff le Grange said hydropower is one of the few renewable sources of baseload energy generation – that is, it constantly generates a predictable flow of electricity.

“As long as there is sufficient flow in the river, the power plant can generate electricity, and since the Orange River is a managed system, this means that the generation capacity is almost constant,” he said.

Construction at Neusberg began in June 2013 and the power station began commercial operation in January on time and on budget.

“Hydro Tasmania and its consulting business Entura have been involved in the whole lifecycle of the project from design through construction and ongoing support for operation and maintenance. One hundred years of experience developing and operating hydropower plant in Australia equips us with the expertise to deliver vital skills to this project,” Mr le Grange said.

The project will provide revenue to the project partners for 20 years. It also provides benefits to local communities, many of which arecharacterised by high levels of poverty and unemployment.