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George Municipality Advances Feasibility Study for Renewable Energy Projects

On the photo is a solar plant in one of the George Municipality’s facilities

In response to South Africa’s energy crisis, George Municipality is taking proactive steps by implementing photovoltaic (PV) plants, endorsed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), as the most feasible solution. The Municipality aims to further enhance energy resilience and reduce demand through ongoing initiatives.

Alderman Leon van Wyk, the Executive Mayor of George, recently addressed Western Cape Premier Alan Windi’s Digicon which focuses on energy. During the Digicon on Thursday, 16 November 2023, Mayor Van Wyk provided insights into the progressive approach George Municipality is taking in its renewable energy initiatives.

“In the initial phase of our renewable energy efforts,” Mayor Van Wyk said, “we are completing our 1-megawatt (MW) Solar PV Plant and a Solar PV Plant for the Gwaiing Wastewater Treatment Works.” He outlined the upcoming phases, saying, “Our next endeavour is a 9-megawatt Solar PV Installation, requiring the addition of a 20MVA substation, transformers, and switchgear equipment. Technical aspects are being addressed to align with our commitment to sustainable energy solutions.”

The George Municipality has so far installed or is in the process of installing the following PV plants in George:
• 400-kilowatt peak (kWp) PV at the Outeniqua wastewater treatment facility
• 500 kWp at the PV Gwaing Wastewater treatment facility
• 400 kWp PV plant at the Denneoord New Water Works facility
• 20 kWp PV + 40-kilowatt hour (kWh) battery storage for the Electrotechnical Services building
• 4 kWp PV + 10 kWh battery storage for the Tourism building
• 1 kWp PV + 5 kWh battery storage for Schaapkop substation
• 1 MWp solar farm (ERF464 – Municipal land)

According to the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA), a project goes through various phases before implementation. It starts with inception, concept, and viability, followed by a design phase which is then procured, and construction commences. Due to funding and process constraints, the Municipality has decided to proceed with the inception, concept and viability stages of various specific projects. This would then pave the road for project implementation.
This includes:
• Large Scale Solar Farm
• Utility-scale Batteries
• Possible Wind Turbines
• Hydro Generation
• Hydrogen Gas Turbines

This study will provide an implementation plan based on the various technologies. The Municipality plans to appoint specialists for the study and conclude it before the end of the financial year.

Looking forward, Mayor Van Wyk shared plans for an additional 30 MW Solar PV and a 100MWh Battery Energy Storage System (BES) to address load-shedding challenges and enhance energy resilience. Acknowledging funding challenges, Mayor Van Wyk noted, “We’ve applied to the National Treasury for support through the Budget Facility for Infrastructure, unfortunately not approved due to current financial constraints. Exploring alternatives, we are considering private sector funding, potentially through an Independent Power Producer (IPP) model.”

He concluded by addressing legislative hurdles, stating that the current Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) restrictions pose challenges in implementing long-term contracts of more than three years needed for such projects. Ongoing collaboration with Provincial Treasury and Western Cape Provincial Government aims to explore amendments to the MFMA, facilitating the realization of large-scale electricity provision projects.”

Mayor Van Wyk emphasized the municipality’s commitment to finding sustainable solutions to the current electricity crisis, contributing to both local and national energy resilience.