Mailbox: Renewable energy proposal – “Harness the Agulhas current”

From BizNews community members Roderick and Len Stevens

I write you on behalf of my father Len Stevens. Both he and I subscribe to BizNews and were inspired by Linda van Tilburg’s BizNews 23 May 2023 interview with DA shadow Minster of Energy Kevin Mileham.

Attached herewith is my father’s very innovative proposal to Harness the Agulhas Current to produce JET IP-compliant electricity to the national grid and to power on-shore desalination plants to provide an abundant supply of fresh water to be networked into the national water supply.

I am reaching out to you and the BizNews tribe to join my father in turning this proposal into a viable business plan which we can use to secure JET-IP seed funding to activate our Agulhas Power Project.

We hope you will find his proposal compelling enough to join, or guide, us to achieve our objective and look forward to your reply.

– Roderick Stevens


AGULHAS POWER

“HARNESS THE AGULHAS CURRENT” to produce JET IP-compliant electricity to the national grid and to power on- shore desalination plants to provide an abundant supply of fresh water to be networked into the national water supply

This totally workable proposal is based on facts and engineering science.

Dr. Anthony Turton – Professor of Water Resource Management at the University of the Free State – warns us, in his 13th June 2023 BizNews interview with Chris Steyn, that:

  • We are fast running out of water – in some parts of the country, this is already a reality and, by 2030, this will be a national crisis;
  • We have lost our capacity to dilute our sewerage which is flowing raw into our rivers and contaminating the water supply we do have – cholera in our capital city is but one example of the dangers ahead;
  • The state has lost its institutional capacity at national, provincial and municipal levels and, as a result, there is no plan to avert disaster;
  • This water crisis is an existential threat to national security and the future of our country – social unrest and economic collapse await, if we do not act immediately;

Professor Turton proposes that desalination on a massive scale is the only viable solution to providing the quantity of potable (fresh) water our country essentially needs.

That leaves us only 7 years to avert the above, looming disaster!

  • Desalination at this scale, requires an abundant, reliable and constant electricity supply – which Eskom cannot provide within these 7 years – if ever;
  • ‘Harnessing the Agulhas Current’ provides the opportunity to produce infinite quantities of JET IP-compliant electricity on site within these 7 years – provided we move swiftly to a viable solution – which is exactly what this proposal offers;

We must urgently create the ‘electricity’ we need, to solve the ‘water crisis’!

“HARNESS THE AGULHAS CURRENT” – IS A PLAN WHOSE TIME HAS COME!

Note: *There is no other power-source available, that can solve both these problems*. And my solution offered here – enjoys the enthusiastic support of Professor Turton!

My name is Len Stevens. I am a South African Patriot. [email protected]

My First Career – was that of an ‘Engineer Officer’, in the Merchant Navy – so I am familiar with the Agulhas Current. My engineering background qualifies me to discuss this subject.

I offer these practical, achievable suggestions to a construction-led implementation team – of which I’d like to be part – to bring this ‘Agulhas Power Project’ to fruition.

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OVERVIEW

The central thrust of this project is to harness the force of the “Agulhas Current” – which flows day and night, all year round – down the east coast of South Africa – to generate electricity to power on-shore desalination plants, to produce potable (fresh) water.

SITE

The site for this ‘capturing and harnessing’ will exist in two places:

  • Off-Shore: Professor Turton has identified the ‘deep water drop-off’ that exists on the edge of the Protea Banks, Pinnacle Reefs between East London and Durban – within our South African twelve-mile territorial limits which can be considered as the possible site wherein to anchor the floating “Agulhas Power Station(s)”, to generate electricity

And:

  • On-Shore: Directly opposite on the beachfront area – to construct the generation step-up transformer to receive the electricity generated off shore and transmit it into the grid. Adjacent will also be a substation step-down transformer feeding a distribution transformer station to power the desalination plant(s). The on-shore site will inevitably lead to new urban growth generating short-term construction jobs and long-term employment opportunities to support plant maintenance and commercial/industrial activity.

Both sites will trigger Environmental Impact Assessments and the off-shore site will require consent from national government.

So time is of the essence to get the Project designed and approved.

SOME FUNDING ALREADY AVAILABLE

  • Germany – 700 Million pledged to assist SA move away from coal to clean energy and expand the grid;
  • International Just Energy Transition Partnership – EU/France/Germany/UK/USA/RSA – $8.5 billion in funding comprising $330 million in grant funding, $5.33 billion in concessional loans, $1.5 billion in commercial loans and $1.3 billion in guarantees between 2023 and 2027 to speed up South Africa’s move away from coal to clean energy. This is 10% of the JET IP funding requirement of $99 billion to achieve the JET objectives by 2030;
  • This is an ideal ‘Candidate Project’ to qualify for JET grant funding and has the potential to be commercially viable;

THE POWER SOURCE

This marvelous ‘clean-energy’ power-source called the “Agulhas Current” – available 24/7 and 365 days a year – runs roughly South West along the East-Coast of South Africa at a speed, in certain places, of around ‘5 nautical knots’. That’s the equivalent of a serious, ‘human jogging-speed’! (See ‘Google’ for more technical details, on this current).

The raw force of the Agulhas Current is sufficient that savvy ship’s-captains deliberately steer clear of it whilst travelling North off our East Coast – avoiding the current’s head-on, speed-impeding effect.

And on their South run, they deliberately ‘steer into’ its awesome torrent – to augment their ship’s speed by adding the speed of the current to it.

HARNESSING THE POWER SOURCE

The United States Naval Academy has perfected a submersible-propeller to capture the useful force of the Agulhas Current … the design being based on the features of the ‘Humpback Whale’s Tail’.

(See the relevant article about this in the 30th November 2010 issue of Popular Mechanics … ‘Whale-inspired Ocean Turbine Blades’).

As the USA is a member of the International Just Energy Transition Partnership, the project team should have no difficulty in asking them to share their research and designs so that we can create the very best, ‘current-capturing’ propellers, to use in our own project.

An Operational Example: Six, prefabricated, ‘propeller-pods’, each in its own steel cage, are lowered from our vessel, into the ever-flowing Agulhas Current. The powerful rotation of each of the six propellers is then ‘mechanically transferred’ to its electricity-generating ‘partner-turbine,’ situated aboard our vessel, which is firmly anchored above.

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Our vessel is an oil rig specially adapted to our project’s needs. It offers the perfect stable platform capable of withstanding the most violent seas. It can be towed or self-propelled to the ideal anchorage position and will not be dislodged from its position. It can be moved, when and if required. Oil rigs already have:

  • Accommodation to keep our crew and security forces comfortable;
  • All the services and facilities to keep it self-contained;
  • A helicopter landing pad for ferrying in supplies and crew changes;
  • Lifting/lowering mechanisms already fitted – but we will be raising and lowering our ‘propeller-pods’ – instead of oil-drilling equipment – for preventative maintenance;
  • Can be easily repurposed into our “Agulhas Power Station Platforms”;

The clean electricity generated by the off shore platform turbines is then fed through suitable transmission cables to the generation step-up transformer on shore. From there, it can be fed into the national grid and to the adjacent substation step-down transformer feeding a distribution transformer station to power:

  • The desalination plant(s) which can now produce abundant, fresh potable water;
  • The pumping-stations to distribute this fresh potable water into a new pipeline system to connect up with existing countrywide-distribution networks; The number of Agulhas Power Station Platforms can be scaled on a supply and demand basis. As our electricity needs increase, we simply increase the number of them.

COMMERCIAL VIABILITY OF THE AGULHAS POWER STATION PLATFORMS

Damen Shipyards in Cape Town has confirmed it looks forward to working with us to plan and re-purpose oil rigs into our power station platforms once we have raised seed capital to realise the Project. This means the time needed to construct and deliver an “Agulhas Power Station Platform” into generating service should be substantially less than the building of another fossil fuel or nuclear power station – thus providing the key to the commercial viability of the Agulhas Power Station Platforms and their propeller-turbine combinations. Through ‘Wesgro’, we can explore potential tax incentives to leverage against the capital costs of procuring and completing each platform for delivery to site.

Once anchored in position, there are no fossil fuels to purchase and transport to the power generation site. The opportunity for supply-chain corruption is therefore reduced. The only input costs of the “Agulhas Power Station Platforms” will be state territorial water tariffs, pod and platform maintenance, crew and security force costs (a military presence will need to be stationed on board each platform to protect it), air and sea transport costs. This means lower life-cycle costs. This combined with much faster income stream generation from producing and selling clean electricity should deliver an extremely attractive ROI.

Instead of paying massively expensive leases to Karpowership, we should rather spend the money on our own “Agulhas Power Station Platforms” which are our own, in perpetuity.

LET’S LOOK NOW AT THE DESALINATION PLANTS THEMSELVES

Cape Town’s Day Zero Crisis in 2017 spawned a local desalination plant capacity. We can draw from our local experience and expertise – augmented with international expertise most particularly from Israel – one of the leaders in desalination – until our optimum South African designed and made solution is found to pair with our “Agulhas Power Station Platform”.

An important issue to be dealt with is that desalination leaves behind residual sea-salt that has to be periodically cleared away from the area of operation. But it’s not a ‘waste product’. Some of its natural constituent chemicals generate the following by-products with commercial value:

*Purified Brine – for industrial applications;

*Purified Table Salt – for human consumption and food manufacturing;

*Magnesium Hydroxide Powder – used in ‘waste-water treatment’ and flame retardants;

*Calcined Gypsum Powder – large quantities of which, used in the construction industry and agriculture;

Factories to process and package these by-products can be built adjacent the desalination plants and will generate employment. The number of desalination plants that can be constructed can be scaled to equate with the number of “Power Station Platforms”.

A PARTIAL LIST OF ON-SHORE EQUIPMENT AND FACILITIES WE WILL NEED

  • The various electricity transformers listed in the On-Shore Site description on page 2;
  • The desalination plants themselves;
  • The factories to process the by-products;
  • Engineering workshops of every possible description for ongoing maintenance of the power station platforms and desalination plants themselves;
  • Warehousing for specialised equipment and supplies required including underwater- engineering devices, pumps, and pipelines etc;
  • Residential accommodation;
  • Administrative offices;
  • Commercial and retail complexes;

ADDITIONAL ‘JOB-CREATING’ ACTIVITIES, WHICH MUST BE PERFORMED

Seeing that the fresh potable water needs to be moved around the country, we will need much onshore civil engineering work to be done. Pipelines will need to be laid, pumping- stations to be erected, roads to be built, tunnels to be dug, additional reservoirs to be built, earthworks to be performed. The list goes on! As also, the list for ‘job-creation’ goes on!

It is highly probable that the onshore site cannot help but become a whole new town.

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THE WAY FORWARD

  1. We earnestly request your and the BizNews tribe’s assistance to create a viable business plan and network the project into the JET IP framework with the objective of obtaining a Seed Funding Grant to commence the Project;
  2. Establish a survey team to work with the CSIR to establish the offshore site where A) the Agulhas Current is closest to the shore; B) it is as near the surface as possible and C) it is running at its strongest, fastest, speed;
  3. Identify the onshore site opposite this ideal offshore site;
  4. Appoint a core engineering team to design the transmission of generated electricity to the generation step-up transformer and into the national grid;
  5. Appoint a core professional team to design the step down transmission substations onshore and the desalination plant and support facilities;
  6. Appoint a separate professional team to design the fresh-water pipelines that need to be laid, pump-stations to be erected, roads to be built, tunnels to be dug, additional reservoirs to be built and all associated earthworks;
  7. Make application for EIA approval and obtain government approval through WESGRO;
  8. ‘Damen Shipyards’ in Cape Town will then proceed to design and construct our “Agulhas Power Station Platforms”;
  9. Simultaneously commence with the procurement of the desalination plant/s;

*The exponential economic and employment generation benefits of this Project are absolutely boundless*

I trust you find this Overview as inspirational and inspiring as I did, in researching and authoring it. I much look forward to being part of the team to realise this Project.

– Len Stevens

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