At a workshop to show the eThekwini municipality’s plan to partner US HAE (Hydro Alternative Energy) in building a R 155 million sea-power project off the KwaZulu-Natal coast, scientists said that the research and technological knowledge were available in their country, reported the Iol.
Professor Wikus van Niekerk, director of the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies at the University of Stellenbosch, said that they could build a sea-power generation unit in two years by using local engineering expertise. The technology would not be imported, but designed to suite South African conditions.
“One of the biggest challenges for the development of renewable energy… is the Department of Energy. They’re understaffed and under-resourced. It is not a priority. If we had R155m we could do what the Americans are proposing to do here,” Professor van Niekerk explained.
A spokeswoman from Environmental Affairs Thandiwe Maimane confirmed that the department was not involved in the ocean-generated energy research, but denied that it was understaffed and missing resources.
Dr Mike Roberts from the Department of Environmental Affairs’ oceans and coasts section said that, although the proposal presented by HAE had certain value, he agrees with Van Niekerk.
“Given the correct funding we would have a prototype in the water already,” Dr Roberts pointed out.
Russell Curtis, from the Durban Investment Promotion Agency, called on the government to give support for this project, and said that the deal with HAE showed how seriously alternative energy sources were being taken by the city.
The Agulhas current, which is 100 km wide, is considered one of the most stable currents in the world.
If successful, the pilot unit is expected to produce 1 MW of power and could be developed to supply all of the city’s electricity needs.