Nuclear and renewable: S.Africa's ambitious new energy mix

Women from Masakhane settlement fill their wheel barrows with free coal provided by the nearby mine in Emalahleni
Women from Masakhane settlement fill their wheel barrows with free coal provided by the nearby mine in Emalahleni

Heavily reliant on coal-fired electricity, South Africa is launching ambitious new projects aimed at diversifying its energy sources and avoiding the regular power cuts that have hobbled the economy in recent years.

Solar and wind energy plants are mushrooming across the country while the government is planning a huge—and controversial—expansion of .

But coal is not going away anytime soon.

On the outskirts of Johannesburg and near the industrial town of Vereneeging, six large turbines spew white smoke above the desolate landscape.

Lethabo thermal power station is generating 3,600 megawatts (MW) of electricity—around eight percent of national production.

The Lethabo plant, operated by the state-owned utility firm Eskom, is using inexpensive, poor quality coal which is found in abundance in this part of the country.

"We don't have big resources in water, solar is still expensive to build and wind isn't 100 percent reliable because wind can't blow all day long," said Thomas Conradie, the Lethabo coal power station chief.

"The most affordable option to produce the majority of our energy remains coal," which provides 85 percent of the country's energy, he said.

Two mega coal plants—Medupi and Kusile—are under construction and will each have the capacity to produce around 4,800 MW.

But the government believes that for South Africa to cut down its excessive reliance on coal, it has to expand its nuclear power generation—despite opposition from environmentalists and fears that the huge cost could cripple the economy.

Sheep graze near the Sasol Gas Engine power plant in Sasolburg, South Africa, on August 26, 2015
Sheep graze near the Sasol Gas Engine power plant in Sasolburg, South Africa, on August 26, 2015

South Africa currently has the sole on the continent, situated at Koeberg, north of Cape Town. The twin reactors there contribute nearly 2,000 MW, a little over four percent of the national power output.

The government wants to pump an extra 9,600 MW of nuclear power into the national grid by building eight new reactors at an estimated cost of some $50 billion (46.5 billion euros).

China, France, Russia, South Korea and the United States are bidding to construct the plants, with the winner expected to be announced early next year.

'Realistic' target

Apart from nuclear energy, South Africa is pressing ahead with options.

"Coal will continue to be one of the sources of electricity in South Africa for a foreseeable period of time in the future," said Brian Mantlana, director of climate change issues at South Africa's environment ministry.

But "what is important is how South Africa changes its energy mix going forward," he said.

Eskom this year launched its first wind farm near Vredendal in the desert near Namibia. Forty-six wind turbines some 115 metres (380 feet) tall are generating 100 MW of electricity.

Koeberg Nuclear Power Station in South Africa is the only nuclear power plant on the African continent
Koeberg Nuclear Power Station in South Africa is the only nuclear power plant on the African continent

Further north a solar scheme is under construction that is expected to produce an additional 100 MW.

The outputs are small so far, but Eskom plans a huge expansion of energy from renewable sources.

"By 2030 the aim is to almost double our capacity for electricity production in the country. And we want 42 percent of this new energy to come from renewables—the equivalent of 17,800 MW," said Ayanda Nakedi, director of renewable department for Eskom.

The target is "realistic", she said, because already 3,000 MW of renewable energy has been commissioned from private players that have invested millions of dollars into various projects.

Cattle graze at a Bio2Watt gas power plant, funded by the French Development Agency (AFD), where cow manure is used to produce e
Cattle graze at a Bio2Watt gas power plant, funded by the French Development Agency (AFD), where cow manure is used to produce energy that feeds an Eskom grid, on November 3, 2015 in Pretoria

Her optimism was echoed by Olivier Grandvoinet, head of projects related to climate change for the French Development Agency, which helped finance the wind farm with a loan of 100 million euros.

"The policies to support renewable energy are robust" and "considered by many as an example internationally," he said.

South Africa is also looking beyond its borders to bolster its security. It has pledged to buy half of the power generated from the future hydro electric Grand Inga Dam in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but the production date is uncertain.

Supporters from South Africa's ruling party the ANC marched against power supplier Eskom in May to protest against power cuts in
Supporters from South Africa's ruling party the ANC marched against power supplier Eskom in May to protest against power cuts in Soweto, Johannesburg

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© 2015 AFP

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Nov 23, 2015
Nukes will turn their economy into one based on colonialism, as they get more and more indebted to foreign sources for high technologies like nukes. Renewables can let them use their abundant natural resources to their advantage using technologies which are easier, much less expensive to build and operate, and more forgiving than nukes.

Nov 23, 2015
Nukes will turn their economy into one based on colonialism, as they get more and more indebted to foreign sources for high technologies like nukes.


Skippy, do you EVER do a little checking before you post up some of your really silly Palin-Like slogans? Just a little?

South Africa has been doing nuclear stuffs on their own for years and years. At one time they even had a nuclear weapons program. You do not help or add anything to your "cause" or "crusade" by making it a Palin-Like sideshow.

Oh yeah, I almost forget. No Cher, I did not need to look him up on Wiki. Even though you should try that more often. I just knew it already because I read stuffs instead of just thinking I can pull all the answers to everything out of my butt like you do.

Nov 23, 2015
Renewables can let them use their abundant natural resources
abundant natural resources, wildlife's habitats, natural landscapes, to be ruined by huge wind/solar farms; aside intermittency problem.

Nov 23, 2015
Auntie Ira is not unintelligent, just adolescent, and thinks his goober-speak is cute, but he can actually speak real English when not in character.

If Ira thinks it is wise for South Africa to build expensive nukes and import the technology and materials and find ways to store the waste, rather than develop their own native resources they can control and operate and spread, he is just digging us in deeper.

Nov 23, 2015
ways to store the waste
nuclear produces tiny amount of waste per gigawatt generated and does not slaughter millions birds and bats as wind/solar does.
http://nuclear-ec...1557.jpg
http://nuclear-ec...-summer/

Nov 23, 2015
Auntie Ira is not unintelligent, just adolescent, and thinks his goober-speak is cute, but he can actually speak real English when not in character.


So Cher, tell us one thing, okayeei? It is a question you like to ask us a lot. Why are you here Skippy? And what do you think your silly slogans do for your "causes"? Tell the trut now, how would you rate your slogans? Unintelligent? Check-A-Roo. Adolescent? Check-A-Roo again. Like something Sarah-Palin would say? Trifecta you Cher.

If Ira thinks it is wise for South Africa to build expensive nukes and import the technology and materials and find ways to store the waste, rather than develop their own native resources they can control and operate and spread, he is just digging us in deeper.


Why you don't take your political slogans to a political site? (That's another thing you think everybody else is supposed to do but not you.)

Nov 23, 2015
"nuclear produces tiny amount of waste per gigawatt generated"
-----------------------------------

Right. So you agree to take it?

How many thousands of tons of high-level intensely-radioactive waste do you want?

It seems nobody else has proven any way to successfully store it safely for the required time.

Nov 23, 2015
way to successfully store it safely
"the world's first permanent repository designed to store nuclear waste for 100,000 years."
"Finland's radiation safety centre has assessed the method,"
http://phys.org/n...ity.html

Nov 23, 2015
"the world's first permanent repository designed to store nuclear waste for 100,000 years."
--------------------------------------

Sounds like "the world's first ocean liner designed to be unsinkable."

Sounds like "too cheap to meter", and "meltdowns are impossible", and the other jokes on us.

Nov 23, 2015
Renewables .. much less expensive to build and operate..
Sounds like "too cheap to meter" .. and the other jokes on us.


Nov 23, 2015
Willie, "Too cheap to meter" was what the nuke advocates promised in the 1950's to send us into the nuclear rut. I thought you would know that.

It turned out to be as accurate as "Meltdowns are impossible".

Nov 23, 2015
Nuclear energy production can create situations that can be considered very unsafe, if you live on a planet where fossil fuel production and war isn't directly shoving us all off the cliff of extinction. It's like complaining about paper cuts when you're sitting in a burning house. Well, a burning house surrounded by people on fire who wont let you leave, and want you to die rather than admit the house is on fire.

This &%@$# planet.

Nov 23, 2015
can be considered very unsafe
even so wind/solar kills more than nuclear per unit of energy produced.
http://thoriummsr...7_23.jpg
http://nuclear-ec...-summer/

Nov 23, 2015
UNC Ira:
South Africa has been doing nuclear stuffs on their own for years and years. At one time they even had a nuclear weapons program.


Just for clarification the nuclear power in SA is from France and the next generation is coming from France, Westinghouse, the Chinese or Korea. So, the designs and contracts will be external.

http://www.world-...-africa/

Nov 24, 2015
Nuclear technology requires a Police State to guard it and its materials, and needs it essentially forever. Why are conservatives so intent on putting us in more of their Republican Police State?

Nov 24, 2015
requires a Police State
There are no laws forbidding the people from installing solar panels on their home's rooftops nor placing wind turbines in their backyards, no legal impediments.
Sunshine and breeze are for free: 2 ¢/kWh
Oops! Except "Storing electricity in batteries currently costs $350/kilowatt hour" Wow!
http://phys.org/n...day.html

Nov 24, 2015
Dilitium fusion is a clean source of power that will not produce radioactive waste. See our video on our INDIEGOGO crowdfunding at https://www.indie...584895#/
LENR can replace nuclear fission

Nov 24, 2015
You keep on burning coal, willie. My PV panels go up in a few weeks, and the car comes in a week or so. Check out the price of storage now (PowerWall, etc), willie. When it gets ramped up, then gets competitors, the Tesla factory will change the world.

Nov 24, 2015
Dilitium fusion is a clean source of power that will not produce radioactive waste. See our video on our INDIEGOGO crowdfunding at https://www.indie...584895#/
LENR can replace nuclear fission


Going to the funding site it appears you have not put your money where your mouth is. Why haven't you, and thousands of others, invested in LENR? The reason is, probably, that it does not work. There is no credible example of LENR working.

Nov 24, 2015
thermo, why did you rate my post a one?

Nov 24, 2015
thermo, why did you rate my post a one?
Because anyone who follows your rantings eventually comes to understand what a lying phony you are.

Thats my guess anyways.

Nov 24, 2015
Going to the funding site it appears you have not put your money where your mouth is. Why haven't you, and thousands of others, invested in LENR? The reason is, probably, that it does not work
"Tom Darden, CEO of Cherokee Investment Partners and others have invested more than $10 million in cold fusion, including in Rossi's Ecat, and his company Industrial Heat LLC bought the rights to the E-cat technology from Rossi in January of 2014."

-If you knew anything about it you wouldnt be asking such questions.

Nov 24, 2015
gkam asked why I gave this a 1:
You keep on burning coal, willie. My PV panels go up in a few weeks, and the car comes in a week or so. Check out the price of storage now (PowerWall, etc), willie. When it gets ramped up, then gets competitors, the Tesla factory will change the world.


The reason is that WW was right on for his $350/kWh and you did not bother to check it. The power wall sells for $3000 and gives 7kWh. I went and looked it up at the Tesla site. It actually works out to about $428/kWh and that is before installation costs or seismic foundations if you are worried about an emergency. I am also looking at putting something like this in for the future but it is still expensive. What you could have done is talked about the fact that a base-load steam plant costs about $1800/kWh and a combined cycle plant can be put in for about $1000/kWh. That shows batteries are competitive with new sources but WW was right about cost.

Nov 24, 2015
gkam said:
thermo, why did you rate my post a one?


I am also getting tired of your incessant arguments with everyone else because you end your comments with a dig at the others. You have made OT statements such as bringing up the war in the middle east and gun control during discussions of technical issues. Just stick to the subjects and you can make a positive contribution. I have seen you do it. Those who cast aspersions turn off readers and I don't like to see someone with an understanding of some of these topics going off on a rant even if they do support my technical view. Please stick to the science.

Nov 26, 2015
" What you could have done is talked about the fact that a base-load steam plant costs about $1800/kWh and a combined cycle plant can be put in for about $1000/kWh."
-----------------------------------------------

I was discussing the now-economic possibility of urban independence, with the advantages of grid connection for mutual benefit. Your system requires fuel and continuous costs and waste and is meant for power company mass production.

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