Every Friday morning, SAfm's AMLive's radio anchor Ike Phaala speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday's At the Coalface transcript:
Phaala: South Africa's long-delayed Sumbandila satellite is now about to complete its thousandth orbit of the earth.
Creamer: Yes, by Tuesday next week, our satellite will have been in orbit for two months and it's doing quite a track record. It does something like 15-million kilometres a month, so by next Tuesday it should have completed 30-million kilometres. It's sun-synchronous, so it passes South Africa at the same time every day, at around about 09:00 in the morning.
It's there, obviously, to take images of the earth, which can then be distributed amongst the government. This is a State-owned satellite, of course, it's being funded by the Department of Science and Technology, which is its custodian, but, in the meantime, it's being managed by SunSpace. SunSpace built the satellite and they're from Stellenbosch, and they're originally out of Stellenbosch University. They will then hand this over as they pass over the controls to the Satellite Applications Centre, which is part of the CSIR, near Pretoria, and people have already been trained up to take it over.
Phaala: Now, the first 48 Gautrain drivers, we understand, have graduated from South Africa's rapid-rail training programme.
Creamer: Yes, we have to have these trained drivers trained up for the rapid-rail. These things travel at about 160 km/h. We've got two phases of it: we've got from OR Tambo to Sandton, which you can do in 13 minutes, and that should be ready next year. And then we've also got the second phase, which is from Johannesburg to Tshwane and that will require about 30 of these drivers, with the first phase requiring about 18 of these drivers and they've been trained by the French.
We know that Bombela operating company will operate the system for 15 years, but the bad news is that they're now telling us that they're not going to finish the first phase before the FIFA Soccer World Cup. Now, two premiers of Gauteng told us that we would get this before the FIFA world cup. We know what the Chinese did before the Olympics and I think, as South Africans, we'll be put on the lowest rung of hell if we don't meet that June 11 deadline, but we're now being told by the Bombela consortium that they're only going to finish this in October. And apparently there's some arbitration going on, but we hope they sort it out.
Phaala: Very disappointing, that. But we have more exciting news. South Africa's tiny new hydropower station, in the Free State, has managed to sell its first units of electricity.
Creamer: Yes, South Africa is not associated with a lot of water and is not associated with a lot of hydropower. We do have the Gariep dam, in the Karoo, and also on the eastern seaboard, at the Collywobbles area, in the old Transkei, there's some potential there for hydropower, but it was only because we're bringing water from Lesotho into Gauteng that we've actually filled the Ash river with more water. And then they saw this opportunity to create some hydropower along that river so they put up two units that will be a total of about 7 MW.
The first electricity from that is now being sold into the local Dihlabeng municipality and that's going to be quite great for the local community that they will be generating near-by, very clean power because as we see NuPlanet, the company that is doing this particular project hydropower, near Bethlehem, in the Free State, they won't only be selling electricity. They're also selling carbon credits, which is another aspect of the business of clean power these days. You can sell off the carbon credits and they estimate that 33 000 fewer tons of carbon dioxide will go into the atmosphere and they're selling those credits off to the Norwegian State-owned power utility Norway's equivalent of Eskom is going to buy that. But the revenue stream from that will only come in next year.
Phaala: That's Martin Creamer, the publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly. He will be back At the Coalface at the same time, next Friday.