NuPlanet begins work on 4.5 MW Stortemelk hydroelectric project, South Africa

Hydropower developer NuPlanet has begun construction of the 4.5 MW Stortemelk station near Clarence in the Free State Province, South Africa, after agreeing financing on the project.

Construction of the project is expected to take around two years, with commissioning schedule for mid-2016. It was awarded preferred bidder status under the South African Government’s Independent Power Producer (REIPP) programme.

Stortemelk project site

NuPlanet has implemented a number of innovative measures in designing the project to address environmental considerations, ensure maximum availability and optimise maintenance. This includes a vertical CAT turbine directly coupled to an air/water-cooled generator, eliminating the forced ventilation and reducing the number of failure mechanisms.

Anton-Louis Olivier, managing director of NuPlanet, said: “We’re building the power plant in one of the most beautiful parts of South Africa. The brief to the architects was to design a powerhouse top-structure that minimise visual impact and blended the power station to the surrounding environment.”

Mr Olivier explained how the project’s unique ownership structure will ensure that project benefits reach the people most in need. “Not only is Stortemelk is one of the few REIPP projects that is wholly South African owned, but our partners, the Mertech Group, is one of the largest philanthropic investors in South Africa.

“Combining that with broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE) ownership and an additional shareholding by a local Clarens-based charity results in a business which is ploughing back the majority of its returns to poor communities across South Africa.”

The project, situated on the Ash River, will be constructed using a ‘split contract’ structure with an engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) arrangement rather than the EPC structure that is more commonly used in the REIPP programme.

Mr Olivier said: “Based on our past experience, we realised that small hydro does not lend itself as easily to the EPC contract structure as do solar PV or wind projects. Fortunately our partners and lender agreed with this approach.”

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