Karpowership won environmental authorization for one of three ship-mounted power plants it wants to connect to the South African grid, a key step in fulfilling a contract it won more than two years ago.
The Turkish company said the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment gave it permission to go ahead with the installation of a 450-megawatt gas-fired plant in the northeastern port of Richards Bay.
While the company must still complete its agreements with the national ports company before it can proceed, its environmental authorization applications have been the subject of a number of legal challenges from environmental activists.
It has also applied to install a 450 MW plant in the southern port of Ngqura and a 320 MW plant in the western port of Saldanha.
The “outcome represents a meaningful turning point in this extensive process,” the company said in a statement Friday. The “projects will make an important contribution to combating South Africa’s energy crisis,” it said.
Karpowership won about 60% of a government tender in March 2021 to supply 2,000 MW to ease chronic power shortages in the country.
While the initial target date for power production for Karpowership and other winners in the tender was August 2022, none of them are up and running yet.
Activists have objected to the company’s planned use of gas, a fossil fuel, and the potential impact of its so-called powerships and associated gas storage vessels on sea life and small-scale fishing.
An unsuccessful court case by a rival bidder that failed to win a contract also delayed Karpowership from implementing its plans.
South Africa has, since about September last year, suffered almost daily power outages, sometimes for as long as 10 hours or more a day, because the state power utility, Eskom, can’t meet demand. Those outages have eased in recent weeks.