Biomass electricity generator for Zululand
Durban - Amid power supply obstacles that have caused the loss of billions to the South African economy, a R2 billion investment agreement was signed at the Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone with Byromate, a renewable energy company.
Byromate will build a biomass electricity generation plant to supply power, mainly to the Richards Bay industrial area.
Construction is expected to start in the third quarter of next year and be completed 2018.
Another R2.5 million investment came from an Overport-based paint company, ProStar Export Paints.
Byromate director Dion Wilmans said the Richards Bay industrial area had a consumption of between 5 percent and 7 percent of what Eskom could provide.
Part of their plan was to feed into the national grid, but there was heavy demand locally.
Wilmans said there were no concluded deals with Eskom yet, but they were looking at supplying power to the national grid.
“We are going through the process with the Department of Energy where they procure all the renewable power (suppliers) and they sign on behalf of Eskom. The power purchasing agreements are underwritten by the National Treasury.”
Asked if it was keen on doing business with companies such as Byromate, Eskom said it had entered into short- and medium-term contracts with independent power producers, “however, the company will have to be licensed by Nersa (National Energy Regulator) in order to sell its power”.
Eskom said it could not enter into long-term power purchase agreements with independent power producers without Department of Energy and Nersa approval.
Wilmans said they had targeted three fuel sources from around Richards Bay: forestry, sugar cane, and waste from the agricultural sector.
“We will absorb all the disease infested, below standard and burnt forests. Also any forestry waste that is generated when they harvest timber for the pulp and paper industry,” he said.
Wilmans said sugar cane land that was “economically unviable” due to low rainfall would be used.
“A lot of those areas are not sustainable for sugar cane any longer. So on those marginal lands we can now plant dedicated energy crops because they require far less water.”
Another source was the “trash” from sugar cane farms.
Wilmans said before starting the production of energy, the company had to be in line with legislation and receive approval from certifiers.
“We need to conform to the national Environmental Management Act, the national Emissions Control Act and the Waste Management Act, because even though our by-product (ashes from the burnt waste) is organic fertiliser, it is still considered waste by the national Department of the Environment.
“We have to get all the permits and licences from the relevant national departments. It is not negotiable.”
Wilmans said the company already had solar and wind plants in the Western Cape and Northern Cape, “but this is our largest investment”.
IDZ chief executive Pumi Motsoahae said the energy generated by Byromate would complement Eskom’s supply, especially when there was load shedding, to prevent production hiccups.
Motsoahae said there were potential job opportunities as the company would need labourers during construction of the plant and staff to operate it.
ProStar Paints chief executive Vergan Kumar said his company had decided to have a plant at the IDZ because it was looking at exporting its products to the rest of Africa.
The company started as a paint distributor but had expanded into a manufacturer.