Billionaire businessman Johann Rupert built a private hydro-power plant on his farm, but trying to give the power to Eskom proved very challenging.
Speaking at the FT Africa Summit in London three years ago, Rupert said he built a hydroelectric power plant on his farm.
Rupert referred to the R70 million, 2.3MW renewable energy small hydro-power plant on the Anthonij Rupert Wyne, L’Ormarins farm.
The project was started over a decade ago and was Rupert’s brainchild, who wanted to make the most of a waterfall on the farm.
Anthonij Rupert Wyne managing director Gary Baumgarten said it took two years to do an environmental impact assessment and obtain a water licence.
After that was completed, they could start construction of the power plant, which included diverting a portion of the waterfall to power the scheme.
The 2.3MW of electricity is enough to supply the 1,100-hectare farm’s full energy needs and still produce a 2MW surplus, which can be fed into the grid.
News24 reported that the power plant generates around 6.3 million kWh per year, of which an estimated 3.5 million kWh could be plugged into the national grid.
The surplus can power at least 200 households, which would be a welcome addition during load-shedding.
However, Rupert revealed that despite their best efforts, giving this extra electricity to the grid is nearly impossible.
They signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Eskom in 2016 that was valid for one year, but the contract was not renewed. The power utility gave no reason.
“It has been connected to the grid for three years, but I can’t switch it on because of red tape and, under the Zuma regime, bribes,” Rupert said. “The power is running into the sea.”
It is not clear whether anything changed since Rupert’s interview at the FT Africa Summit three years ago.
Daily Investor reached out to Rupert for comment, but he did not provide feedback by the time of publication.
Rupert’s hydro-power plant details
I&F Engineering (I&F) and ADM Engineers (ADM) were tasked with the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) of the project.
I&F was responsible for the power island and ADM for the Electrical Balance of Plant works for the small hydro-power plant.
The 2.3MW renewable small hydro-power plant consists of two 942kW hydro turbines (synchronous machines) and a 315kW asynchronous machine. Ossberger turbine generators were used.
Fire helicopters were used to transport the equipment needed to construct the penstock and weir up the mountain.
The turbines are located 300 meters below the artificial weir that channels 700 litres of water per second down the mountainside in just over 1.2 kilometres.
The plant generates eight months of green energy, which it banks for the dry season by feeding it back into the national grid.
The plant can evacuate power at 11kV to the national power grid via a rural overhead transmission line connected to an Eskom substation at Wemershoek.