sun, wind & dung to ease the crisis

Submitted by sproutingforth on Sat, 2008-02-02 12:50

Eskom, obviously hell bent on looking good in the face of continuing blackouts, has made a number of exaggerated claims of harnessing renewable energy in an attempt to rescue the situation.

Eskom apparently intends building a 100MW solar thermal plant that uses SA mirror technology to harness energy. If it gets the go-ahead, Eskom says, this will be the world’s biggest solar thermal plant. Australia made this same claim almost a year ago, with their intended solar project that will have a capacity of 154 megawatts. [IOL]

Eskom is also apparently “pushing ahead” with what it calls a “massive wind farm” – 100MW – just outside Cape Town. This is not news. Not only did Eskom already announce this prospect in September 2007, but the “massive” aspect is rather questionable since 100MW is only enough to power a small town! [which way blows the wind]

In the meantime, the much talked about solar heating project, that will see the subsidisation of solar water heaters for South Africans, is still limping along. Eskom claims that it cannot begin rollout until suppliers are registered in all main centres. [engineeringnews] Eskom notes that “it is carefully managing the awareness around the programme so as to ensure that it is not creating a demand in the solar industry that cannot be supplied” – You don’t have to be Einstein to realise that since the blackouts, the demand has increased to such an extent that they probably don’t have the capacity to cope!

About midway down the article that featured in last weekend's Sunday Times, is the news about ‘smart meter tracks’, which Eskom intends using to monitor your electricity use. Of course they word it a little differently: “A smart meter tracks how much electricity you use, as you use it, and can communicate the information via a network back to the local utility for improved monitoring and billing purposes.”

On closer investigation, however, the government appears to be following the example of Brazil, who, when they were in a similar position, introduced a power-rationing scheme that affected about 80% of the economy. A system of bonuses and penalties for users, and tradable quotas for industries was introduced, and electricity consumption levels effectively declined by about 20%. [business.iafrica]

There is some positive news. Solar powered electricity is apparently being snapped up and farmers are investigating using biogas as a source of energy. But when is Eskom going to put its weight behind renewable energy? The above claims are nothing close to what the country needs to rescue it from the present situation.[Times]

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