Waste-to-energy plant opens in Cape Town

2017-01-25 19:12
Part of the waste to energy plant in Athlone (Jenni Evans, News24)

Part of the waste to energy plant in Athlone (Jenni Evans, News24)

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Cape Town - A R400m waste-to-energy conversion plant was officially opened in Athlone, Cape Town, on Wednesday with high hopes of reducing the city's landfill sites and creating jobs.

“This is an exciting addition to the green economy in Cape Town,” mayor Patricia de Lille said after a guided tour with Western Cape Premier Helen Zille.

It symbolised the city's move from being a distributor of electricity to generating electricity in its goal of having 20% renewable energy as part of its energy mix.

The city wanted to give the citizens of Cape Town greater choice on what type of energy they wanted.

De Lille said she felt it was wrong that Eskom had a monopoly and forced the city to purchase its fossil-fuel power.

There were plans to challenge this in court, on the grounds that the city should be allowed to source energy directly from independent power producers.

The sprawling plan was thought to be the first of its kind in Africa, and would pave the way for more plants to turn rubbish into gas.

Zille said the project fit into the province's plans of being the hub of the green economy.

“We are driving it very hard because we see the prospects for South Africa.”

The project is a collaboration between Waste Mart and Clean Energy Africa, and will be run by New Horizons Energy.

8000 tons of waste daily

New Horizons Energy CEO Egmont Otterman said the city generated around 8000 tons of waste a day. If another eight plants of the kind unveiled on Wednesday were built, there would be no more need for landfill sites.

Otterman said Cape Town was perfect for the first plant because of its high landfill prices, a progressive government, and a shortage of gas.

The plant would use 500 tons of organic household, municipal, and industrial waste per day, in an anaerobic digestive process, to produce methane, food-grade carbon dioxide, and organic fertilizer.

The plant could supply around 4% to 5% of the city's liquid petroleum gas requirement.

Clean Energy Africa CEO Marcel Steinberg said there was a noticeable link between economic growth and increased waste. Plants such as theirs provided a “zero waste” landfill facility because everything produced by the mechanical processes was used.

In addition, the people who worked there would not have to pick through waste like those at rubbish dumps. They would have decent working conditions, including unemployment insurance.

Afrox was expected to purchase methane and carbon dioxide from the plant. The plant would initially employ 80 people.

What got everybody excited was the prospect of fewer landfill sites festering with rubbish as waste would be diverted to the plant and its successors.

Zille said the plant would allow Africa to leap-frog centuries of technology to be at the forefront of energy creation. It would contribute to Cape Town's energy stability - an attraction for foreign investors.

Western Cape government-funded entity Green Cape had helped with technical support and would work with other municipalities in the province to roll out similar initiatives.

Read more on:    patricia de lille  |  cape town  |  energy

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