US firm, Durban talk ocean energy plan

9 May 2012

US independent power provider Hydro Alternative Energy is in talks with the City of Durban on plans to develop a world-first project that would harvest hydrokinetic energy from the fast-flowing Agulhas current off South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal coastline.

Senior company representatives were currently holding talks with eThekwini Municipality officials on the project, Florida-based Hydro Alternative Energy (HAE) said in a statement on Monday.

HAE said the municipality had given its in-principle support for the project, which would be undertaken in stages, the first stage involving the identification of suitable sites for mooring offshore power generation systems, followed by requests for the necessary environmental permits and power generation licences.

The plan is to develop a US$20-million 1-megawatt demonstration unit, after which additional units 8 MW units would be built “and likewise submerged, approximately 30 metres (98 feet) below sea level, to prevent interference with shipping”, the company said.

‘One of the most consistent currents in the world’

“The Agulhas is one of the most consistent currents in the world,” Derek Morgan of eThekwini’s energy unit told The Mercury newspaper. So, if the ocean current generation was to happen, Durban would be an ideal location to start harnessing it.

“If we can get it right, it has the potential to completely transform the city into a green energy location for investment,” Morgan said.

‘Never been done before’

Company co-CEO Mark Antonucci said that generating electric power from sea currents had never been done before. “All previous sea and wave generation technologies have been tidal based.

“We are very excited about our continued meetings and discussions with our Municipality of eThekwini partner to move this project forward to reality,” Antonucci said.

“We again note the commitment of Durban and the eThekwini Municipality to substantially reducing their carbon footprint and becoming ‘greener’, with the eThekwini Municipality having recently hosted the 17th Conference of the Parties [COP 17] to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.”

SAinfo reporter