Makana Municipality held an economic development portfolio committee council meeting recently where a proposal was put forward for an invasive biomass energy project to supply electricity to the Grahamstown region.
The proposal was presented at last Thursday’s meeting by the Nollen Group, an environmental finance group based in the Netherlands, saying that if approved by the municipality the project could create nearly 150 jobs for local people.
Nollen Group representative, Charlie Cox said that he approached the municipality with this project because of the debates surrounding the wind farm initiative which he saw as an opportunity to broaden alternative energy solutions.
They are proposing a 2 to 3MW biomass power plant to be constructed at the Old Power Station to sell renewable electricity to Makana Municipality and Rhodes University.
The company’s proposal states that “invasive alien plants (IAPs) such as wattles and gum have become established in over 10 million hectares of South African land, including around Makana.
These unwanted trees consume significant amounts of water, are a fire hazard, cause erosion and a threat to South African biodiversity.”
The biomass power plant proposes to burn IAPs to generate electricity. Cox says that biomass-fired power plants leave hardly any traces of pollution and are completely carbon neutral compared to coal-fired power plants, which currently generate more than 90% of electricity in South Africa.
“Wind power is a tremendous thing, but there is one Achille’s heel to it. Wind turbines need a secure supply of electricity to keep their internal machinery functioning should Eskom institute load-shedding in the area in a time of little wind,” says Cox.
He added that they are looking at assisting Makana in getting off the Eskom grid altogether, with the plan of selling electricity nationally and possibly even internationally.
This would enhance the local economy and Grahamstown would be set on becoming South Africa’s first green municipality.
The Nollen group does not seek any funding from the municipality, only to grant them access to the local energy grid which is accessed at the Highlands Power Substation and is owned by the municipality as well agreeing to become an off-taker for the electricity in order to finance the construction of the biomass power plant.
“The electricity will be transacted via a 20 year power purchase agreement and be sold at a tariff that is beneficial to both the seller (Nollen Group) and the off-taker (Makana Municipality or Rhodes University),” the proposal read.
According to Cox, the family-owned company complies with three factors: people, planet and profit which will support the municipality in improving the livelihoods of people; stimulating an economic government; influencing the environment positively through the removal of the IAPs; and generating a profit not only for the Nollen Group, but also making a sustainable profit for the people in job creation.
“This is a brilliant project and music to my ears. I hope it will fly,” DA Councillor Les Reynolds. Director of the Local Economic Development, Riana Meiring said that this is an ideal and wonderful opportunity to attract investments and create jobs.
Head of Makana council’s economic development portfolio committee, Nombulelo Masoma said that the proposal would be put onto the agenda and discussions will be made before a decision is reached.