South Africa to develop a pioneering 1 MW wave-energy pilot project

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South Africa is set to develop a pioneering 1 MW pilot project aimed to supply clean electricity to a large-scale Hermanus abalone farm, in the Western Cape.

Mean Sea Level (MSL) CEO and Engineer Marius Hugo, said that the world-first solution has been developed in response to Abagold’s search for a clean alternative that is able to consistently match the abalone farm’s 3 MW, around-the-clock electricity requirement.

Pioneering 1 MW wave-energy pilot project

The development estimated to cost US $15m will be a first-of-its-kind project with equity investments from the Industrial Development Corporation, angel investors and aquaculture group Abagold, which is a shareholder in MSL and produces 500 tonnes of abalone yearly.

The pilot site is being constructed using locally developed technology, as well as domestic expertise, materials and manufacturing. Upon completion, the plant will supply electricity to drive Abagold’s pumps and blowers.

Marius Hugo explains that the ‘simple’ solution exploits the classical principle of “overtopping”, whereby the wave is captured in a dam as it overtops the lip of the slope. The captured water’s gravity, or potential energy, then feeds back into the sea through a hydroelectric turbine to generate electricity. Practically, the solution involves building a dam next to the ocean, with the wall facing the oncoming waves having the energy converter slope.

The waves run up and over the wall, or through non-return valves in the wall. The water is then captured in the common buffer dam, behind the wall, at a hydraulic head above mean sea level. The head is then released through low-head turbines into a turbine stabilization dam, which only allows water to flow back to the ocean.

Upon approval of a full environmental impact assessment report, MSL plans to construct a larger 3.5MW commercial wave-power plant at an adjacent sea-front site on the same property. The plant will also receive grant funding from EEP Africa, a multidonor fund that provides early-stage financing to innovative clean-energy projects.