South Africa town studies reviving small hydro projects

The Thaba Chewu municipality is conducting a feasibility study of four abandoned small hydropower projects with the goal of upgrading and possibly expanding the sites in South Africa’s Mpumalanga Province.

South Africa’s official BuaNews said the four plants could total at least 4.6 MW.

“Depending on the outcome of the studies, we may build bigger power stations than the existing ones in the identified area,” said Nick van Rensburg, the municipality’s technical and engineering services director.

Thaba Chewu plans to recommission two hydro plants on the Sabie and Blyde rivers near Graskop. Another two are near Mac Mac Falls. Van Rensburg said the plants were built more than 70 years ago and would cost up to 15 million rand (US$1.9 million) to restore.

When the feasibility study is complete, an environmental assessment of the four sites is to be drafted. If approved, construction could begin by November.

Thaba Chewu currently operates a 2.2-MW hydro plant on the Dorps River that provides 15 percent of the Mashinging area’s needs and saves 150,000 rand (US$19,167) per month in power that otherwise would be purchased from national utility Eskom.

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