Picture: Thomas Peter

BMW South Africa has signed an off-take power purchasing agreement with energy company Bio2Watt that will bring renewable energy to its vehicle manufacturing plant in Rosslyn, Pretoria.

It is believed to be the first private deal of its kind, with the BMW/Bio2Watt initiative also marking the first commercially viable biogas-electricity project in the country.

The power will be supplied to BMW SA from the 4.4 megawatt (MW) installed capacity Bronkhorstspruit Biogas Plant, which is located on the premises of Beefcor, one of the country’s largest feedlots. The feedlot provides the project with key fuel supplies, grid access and sufficient water supplied by Beefcor’s storm water collection dams.

The project is scheduled to come on stream in the first quarter of 2015, with between 25 percent and 30 percent of the Rosslyn plant’s energy requirement generated from renewable sources.

Sean Thomas, the chief executive of Bio2Watt, confirmed yesterday that it had a 10-year agreement with BMW SA.

Tim Abbott, the managing director of BMW SA, said its vision was to achieve a completely carbon neutral energy supply for the group and set itself the goal of becoming a leader in the use of renewable energy by 2020.

Guy Kilfoil, a BMW SA spokesman, declined to comment on the value of the agreement, but said it meant about 25 percent of BMW SA’s energy consumption was moved off the Eskom and Tshwane Metro grid, putting them in a lower electricity payment bracket.

He said in an ideal world, BMW SA would like to take 100 percent of its electricity usage from renewable energy sources, adding that some of the group’s global plants, such as its Leipzig plant in Germany and Spartanburg plant in the US, operated completely on renewable energy.

Abbott said BMW Group’s CleanProduction initiative had, since its inception in 2006, endeavoured to maximise production efficiency and reduce energy consumption at all of BMW Group’s manufacturing plants around the world.

“As a result of our local CleanProduction initiatives, we’ve saved more than R60 million in energy overheads in the last five years at our plant and our Midrand head office, which has been renovated to achieve a four-star Green Rating.

“We expect to make further strides in the area of sustainability with the introduction of our renewable power supply next year through the Bio2Watt project,” he said.

Thomas said the project had received tremendous support from various stakeholders as the electricity off-taker and Eskom and the City of Tshwane as enablers of the grid connection.

He said the Tshwane Metro was also a key supplier of organic waste, diverting the bulk away from landfills, to be processed directly in the biogas plant.

Thomas said more than R100m had been invested in the Bronkhorstspruit plant, which was expected to create about 40 permanent jobs.

He said Bio2Watt was waiting for environment impact assessment approval for another planned biogas plant on a dairy farm in Malmesbury in the Western Cape.

Thomas said this plant would use the same model as its Bronkhorstspruit plant, with waste used to generate power. Bio2Watt was also looking to sell off the power generated by this plant to a triple-A rated company, he added.