Research + Development

Vaal Central Water conduit hydro-power generation plant in collaboration with WRC and the University of Pretoria

In March 2015 during the National Water Week the then Minister for Water and Sanitation, MsNomvula Mokonyane and former Free State Premier Mr Ace Magashule officially launched the Conduit Hydro power plant. The plant has been operational ever since up to date.  The main electricity supply at Vaal Central Water Head offices is from the conduit hydropower plant. This has resulted into a saving for the organization on electricity bill.  This is one of the flagship projects that Vaal Central Water is proud of its contribution to renewal energy in the energy sector.

The Water Research Commission’s project on Energy Generation from Distribution Systems which the University of Pretoria executed in collaboration with Vaal Central Water has been completed. The feedback thus far is very positive with numerous hydropower projects now being investigated throughout the country. Vaal Central Water played an integral part in this successful research project. Vaal Central Water is also now in a fortunate position to be ahead in this development. Some positive outcomes from this collaborating endeavor are summarized below:

Compilation of numerous research reports and other products on the development of hydropower utilizing existing infrastructure.

General interest articles and journal papers have also been compiled as part of this research endeavor to further transfer knowledge and information on the hydropower opportunities which exist.

As part of this research project pilot plants were constructed to showcase the application of available hydropower generation technologies. The flagship pilot plant is without-a-doubt the Brandkop Hydropower Plant (HPP) installation. It is the largest installation and the best equipped. The benefits for Vaal Central Water are:

  • The system will generate and supply power on site;
  • Provide cost saving on electricity expenditure;
  • Contribute towards energy savings initiatives; and
  • Decrease Vaal Central Water’s carbon footprint.

Work completed at the Brandkop hydro-power plant

It is believed that the development of the conduit hydropower plant is the right step. The civil, mechanical and part of the electrical work at Brandkop HPP is complete. The project team has had three successful runs with the hydropower plant. The design generating capacity was achieved. The pressure was 4.1 bar, flow was 290 l/s and it produced ±96 kW of clean renewable energy.

The recent load shedding experienced by all in the country is just a reminder again of how critical the energy crisis is.  It is time for everyone to play their part and make an input in energy renewal with the current resources available.

Capacity building in the hydro-power field

The Water Research Commission (WRC) mandate includes the promoting of effective transfer of information and technology as well as enhancing knowledge and capacity-building. With this research project this has been achieved by disseminating the research reports freely, financially supporting numerous students in their undergraduate and postgraduate studies, presenting at conferences as well as holding workshops and training courses for the past three years.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the British Hydropower, Prof David Williams was invited to South Africa (SA) together with other local experts presenting a successful training course in Bloemfontein with the support of Vaal Central Water. All these activities have stimulated the market.

The initiative that Vaal Central Water has undertook has also been widely published, in general interest articles, workshops and at such events as the 14thAnnual African Utility Week Conference in Cape Town where a paper entitled: Conduit hydropower potential in Vaal Central Water’s bulk supply pipelines (Van Dijk, Kgwale and Bhagwan) was presented. It is believed that there are many positive spinoffs that have occurred thus far from the WRC research project and Vaal Central Water’s involvement as a collaborating organization.

For the WRC the success of the pilot projects heralded the start of a journey that would potentially result in the provision of renewable and low-cost energy to many areas of the country. This WRC’s conduit hydropower project was recognized earlier this year when it won the Community Renewable Energy Award at the Mail & Guardian Greening the Future awards. As long as people use water, renewable electricity can be generated. 

The current energy crisis in South Africa is going to persist for the next couple of years. Eskom nowadays regularly indicate high risks of load shedding, for various reasons. Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown has warned that there are tough times ahead for South Africans hit by load shedding, indicating that things might only get better by 2018, if the right steps are taken.

The recent load shedding experienced by all in the country is just a reminder again of how critical the energy crisis is.  It is time for everyone to play their part and make an input in energy renewal with the current resources available.