BY BRANDON NEL
The Kouga municipality has been given the green light to construct a 20MW solar plant — the first step in breaking free from dependence on Eskom.
Further, the municipality’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) application was approved. This by the Eastern Cape’s Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism at the end of last year.

Tender Issued

Kouga mayor Hattingh Bornman said a tender would be issued within the next few weeks for the construction of the 19.8MW solar photovoltaic park, which is expected to generate an average of 5MW of electricity.
Inspired by
Thus It is the municipality’s initial phase in a three-phase project to produce its own power.
The park, including a battery energy storage system and associated infrastructure, is planned to be erected on a portion of Farm Rheeboksfontein 346 and erf 499 in Humansdorp.
The plant, designed to supply the Kouga local municipality’s electrical grid directly, is expected to take one to two years to construct.
Also, the solar facility’s proposed lifespan for power generation is up to 30 years.

Horatio Hendricks

The ambitious plan to harness power from the sun originates from Horatio Hendricks, Bornman’s predecessor, who outlined the vision in his state of the municipality address in early 2023.
Hendricks described a 60MW renewable energy plant as the long-term goal and a 20MW solar plant as the immediate strategy.
Bornman said it was good to see the plans finally materialising.
“Right now, we are in the procurement process for our first SSEG installation, a small-scale embedded generation project under 1MW — taking a proactive step to ensure energy security and promote environmental sustainability.
“Furthermore, we are in advanced stages of building our own 20MW solar plant.
“The 20MW solar plant will not only contribute to Kouga’s energy independence, but will also serve as a testament to the municipality’s leadership in sustainable practices.”
He said the consultant for the additional 40MW comprehensive feasible study had also been appointed.
“This will take between 18-24 months.
“The 40MW will also be renewable energy, but we will look at all other technologies available in the area: wind, biomass, solar, gas and so on.”

cheapest source of electricity

Energy and financial expert, as well as the founder of The Progress Playbook, Nick Hedley, hailed the approval of the EIA as a step in the right direction.
“This is how municipalities can boost their revenues,” Hedley said.
“By installing solar — the cheapest source of electricity on the planet — they can lower the average cost at which they procure energy. Which means better margins on sales to households and businesses and improved municipal finances.
“They can also keep electricity tariff increases low, which is good for the homes and businesses they serve.
“And each municipality that goes this route gets the country one step closer to ending load-shedding.”
Another energy expert, Lungile Mashele, echoed Hedley’s sentiments.
“It will reduce their daytime consumption and make them more sustainable.
“If their target is net zero, this will edge them in the right direction.”

Nuclear Energy Better Choice

Dr Kelvin Kemm, a nuclear physicist and energy expert, said though he acknowledged the positive intent behind the initiative, he believed nuclear energy would have been a better choice.
“I am pleased the EIA has been finalised, and I appeal for equitable and fair treatment of all EIA applications.”
Kemm stressed the importance of fair treatment in the EIA process. Highlighting the contrast between the challenges faced by nuclear projects and the smoother path for solar or wind initiatives.
“If the municipality aims to adopt sustainable and renewable energy, the optimal approach is to embrace nuclear power.”
Kemm urged Kouga to be clear about its goals and avoid misleading the public. This by positioning solar power as a complete substitute for reliable coal and nuclear energy.
“One has to decide what they’re doing with the electricity.

Daytime Function

“If they want to use it primarily for some daytime function, particularly around lunchtime, then that might be suitable.
“However, it is not like the Northern Cape with guaranteed cloud-free days for long periods. A rainy day reduces solar output to near zero.”
According to the popular load-shedding app, EskomSePush, SA endured blackouts for 82% of 2023.