Sun shines on South Africa’s clean energy future

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Sun shines on South Africa’s clean energy future

Substantial ultra-violet radiation levels and excellent wind conditions have allowed South Africa to diversify its energy generation mix from one that previously relied heavily upon fossil fuels towards a national grid network that is now supported by “green” renewable energy (RE).

In line with the South African government’s own stated objectives of moving towards a cleaner economy with a very low carbon footprint, RE is expected to play an even greater role in powering the country and its economy moving forward.

This intense focus on harnessing the country’s abundance of renewable resources for power production was again reaffirmed by president, Jacob Zuma, in his recent State of the Nation Address when he indicated that the roll-out of RE projects would continue as a national priority.

The announcement was very favourably received by both local and international energy experts. This is considering that the fourth round of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPP) involves 26 preferred bidders across a host of clean energy generation technologies, and represents R50-billion in investment into South Africa.

The highly acclaimed programme has played a pivotal role in the swift implementation of RE projects in the country, to date. Experts are, therefore, very confident that the achievements realised during the first three windows have laid solid foundations to even exceed the current rate of delivery of important clean electricity in the country.

“The past five years proved to be a very steep, but essential learning curve for all involved.  International technology providers had to adapt to the unique South African operating environment, while establishing close linkages with local participants. With these now firmly in place, as well as the extensive experience garnered by South African participants during the process, I believe that we will witness quicker and smoother implementation of projects under the REIPPP,” says Tim Davidson, a director of JG Afrika.

This leading firm of engineers and environmental scientists is closely associated with an array of successful projects under earlier windows of the REIPPP, including the 50 megawatt (MW) !Khi Solar One Tower in Upington, Northern Cape.

This project remains one of JG Afrika’s many milestones, in terms of sustainable power generation. It was the tallest concentrating solar power (CSP) tower in the world when the firm was appointed to provide professional structural review engineering and construction monitoring services.

In addition to the power station’s 200 metre (m) tall circular shaft and concrete stiffening ring, JG Afrika undertook a full design review of the infrastructure’s 5 200 m3 foundations; 28 m high shear walls at the foot of the tower; 200 m tall stair and lift well; three 35 m x 20 m x 40 m external structural steel light receiver structures; adjoining walkway platform; and extensive structural steel support framework.

The design review included finite element analysis of the structure in its complete state and considered the structural behaviour during the construction phase. Limit state design was undertaken based on the worst case results from dynamic and static modelling, while design loads were based on local and international codified standards.

All designs and drawings supplied by Altac, the engineer, were evaluated and approved or modified to comply with JG Afrika’s requirements.

The company was acting on behalf of Spanish sustainable technology specialist, Abengoa, one of numerous European companies that have already invested substantially in South Africa’s renewable energy sector.

Importantly, !Khi Solar One and KaXu Solar One were the first two privately-owned CSP power stations to be developed in South Africa.

JG Afrika also acted as the design review consultant for the mirror assembly warehouse on the !Khi Solar One project on behalf of Abeinsa, Abengoa’s construction company, complementing its involvement in other utility-scale solar projects.

This includes the De Aar and Droogfontein Photovoltaic (PV) Farms where JG Afrika undertook all civil designs on behalf of Siemens South Africa, the engineering, procurement and construction contractor.

Meanwhile, JG Afrika has also built a strong track-record in wind energy projects in South Africa under the REIPPP banner, including acting as owner’s engineer on the Noblesfontein Wind Farm.

Sun-shines-on-South-Africas-clean-energy-futureThese projects have also relied heavily upon the company’s geotechnical capabilities, such as the geotechnical specialist consulting services and a range of geotechnical studies provided to  the Metrowind wind farm and Kouga Windfarm projects.

Owen Davis, an executive associate of JG Afrika, is confident that this appetite for increased involvement in South Africa’s vast RE potential will continue based on its own future pipeline of projects under the REIPPP banner.

Importantly, many of these European companies are even exploring opportunities elsewhere in the larger Southern African Development Community (SADEC) region where South Africa’s

own experience is being used as a blueprint for the efficient rollout of clean energy programmes in other countries.

“South Africa has become a major investment destination for European technology companies. We can, therefore, expect to see more and stronger linkages being forged between them and local developers, as well as participants in the professional teams. This bodes very well for sustainable energy for the country and the larger region,” Davis says.

One of JG Afrika’s strengths in the market is the range and depth of its technical service offering. This has positioned it as a single point of contact for all engineering services associated with the development of these power stations.

Meanwhile, the firm has also succeeded in gaining a significant head-start in the maturing waste-to-gas market, following its extensive involvement in the first large-scale waste-to-energy plant in Africa that started operating in Athlone, Western Cape, earlier this year.

JG Afrika was part of the team that comprised project initiators and developers, Clean Energy Africa and New Horizons Energy, as well as Fountain Civil Engineering, the engineer, procure and construct contractor.

The firm was involved in site-development planning, traffic and transportation, as well as the civil and structural contract and design elements of the project.

In addition, JG Afrika was tasked with the integration of certain designs, with environmental and building plans, plus essential stormwater and effluent-management planning, while serving as the lead consultant in the mechanical, electrical, IT, ventilation and fire teams, as well as for architectural and building plan approvals.

Participation in this project has also bolstered the engineering and environmental firm’s capabilities in biomass projects, definitely a highlight of this next round of the REIPPP that will also help the country optimise the use of its vast forestry and sawmilling residues.

Examples of these biomass projects are those using wood-waste to produce electricity, or other forms of energy, and JG Afrika has already engaged with Scandinavian investors and developers of such technology.

Both Davis and Davidson are extremely proud of their involvement in helping South Africa secure a sustainable future that is in line with the growing international “green” consciousness, as well as JG Afrika’s own ethos regarding infrastructure development on the continent.

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