hydro power generation
Until 2008, when electricity demand exceeded the power-generating capacity, electricity supply in South Africa did not receive much attention from users. This could perhaps be attributed to the success with which Eskom used to provide an uninterrupted supply of electricity to the South African grid. However, the utility’s ability to provide cheap, reliable and abundant supplies of electricity to meet the demands of the increasingly industrialized economy, is fast changing. South Africa is currently facing an energy crisis which places additional importance on harvesting energy from all available feasible renewable sources.
The development of renewable energy such as hydropower is therefore vital. Currently hydropower contributes about 17% of global energy generation. This is only a fraction of its potential. Africa is the most underdeveloped continent with regard to hydropower generation with only 5% of the estimated potential exploited.
Energy is the lifeblood of worldwide economic and social development. The current status of global energy shortages and the emphasis to reduce CO2 emissions stimulate the development of alternative energy generation methods at all levels of the South African economy. The demand for energy increases continuously, primarily due to the population increases and changing lifestyles. These demands need to be met in order to stimulate worldwide development. They can be satisfied by developing alternative, particularly renewable, energy resources using well researched technologies. Renewable energy technologies will have to be exploited to effectively support future economic development and satisfy energy demands. Among targeted renewable energy sources available for energy generation in South Africa are solar radiation, biomass, wind and hydropower.
There are numerous benefits for developing a hydropower installation:
- Hydroelectric energy is a continuously renewable energy source.
- Hydroelectric energy technology is proven technology offering reliable and flexible operations.
- Hydroelectric stations have a long life – many existing stations have been in operation for more than half a century and are still operating efficiently.
- Hydropower stations achieve high efficiencies with high load factors.
- Retrofitting existing infrastructure results in minimal environmental impact.
- Feasibility studies indicate short payback periods.