During the winter of 2004, South Africa’s demand for electricity started challenging Eskom’s (South Africa’s state-owned power utility) reserve margins, and more continuously from mid-2007. Despite attempts to implement energy efficiency and demand-side management, the sharp increase in demand necessitated the implementation of load shedding during the first quarter of 2008. This provoked a concerted action by the South African government to increase the supply of electricity generation into the national grid, partially by broadening the base for electricity generation in South Africa. Policy changes and key strategic developments such as the deregulation of generation capacity were introduced to allow for the establishment of independent power producers and to incentivize private sector participation in the energy sector. These events also coincided with the rise of global concerns about climate change and concerted international action toward low carbon economies. South Africa committed itself to reduce its coal-generated electricity consumption and its carbon footprint.
Our Client’s Challenge
In order for CSP facilities to be feasible, clear blue skies with little cloud cover, water vapour and dust are required. The Northern Cape region has a high concentration of solar energy and ranks among some of the best solar statistics in the world.
To help convert the region’s plentiful sunlight into a reliable source of energy, WSP was appointed by Group Five, a South African integrated construction services, material and infrastructure investment company, to undertake the environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) for the Kalahari Solar Power (KSP) project and facilitate stakeholder engagement. The ESIA was undertaken on the basis of a solar power facility on a 1,922 hectare greenfield site, near the town of Kathu, a mining town with a strong infrastructure network located in the Northern Cape region of South Africa. The project was aligned with the country’s commitments to reduce CO2 emissions by 34% by 2020 (Copenhagen Accord, 2010), satisfied its need to diversify its energy mix, and had the potential to make a significant contribution to the country’s electricity stabilization, thus improving the reserve margin, reducing transmission losses and further decreasing load shedding.