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The Kruisvallei hydro-electric power plant in South Africa’s Free State Province has achieved commercial operation.

Red Rocket’s first hydro-electric power project is the third hydropower project procured under South Africa’s Renewable Energy Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) to come online. Kruisvallei Hydro was awarded preferred bidder status under bid widow 4 of the REIPPP programme.

Construction on the plant started on 26 March 2019 and it started operating commercially on 25 February 2021. It is situated along the Ash River between Clarens and Bethlehem in the Free State Province and is a one-of-a-kind design for South Africa.

The plant is split into two run-of-river hydropower plants that combine to supply 4MW of hydro-electric power through two turbines that will generate around 24GWh per annum providing power for about 1,916 households. The Ash River flows vary from approximately 15m3 to 40m3 depending on the release schedule from the Lesotho Highlands Scheme. It is estimated that approximately 1 billion m3 of water will flow through each turbine each year.

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Achieving commercial operations on this project also marks a significant milestone for Red Rocket EPC that constructed the 4MW hydropower project and the facility will be managed, operated and maintained by Red Rocket Asset Management and O&M companies, respectively. This is the first project within its greater portfolio which was undertaken using the company’s fully-integrated business model.

Red Rocket will be responsible for and will participate in the full lifecycle of the project from development, design and construction to operation and maintenance.

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Matteo Brambilla, Red Rocket CEO said: “Building and operating a project of this nature closes the first of many circles for us as a fully-integrated IPP and we celebrate the completion of Kruisvallei, as an example of our capabilities and what we can bring to the market in the future.”

Facility for Investments in Renewable Small Transactions (FIRST), a specialised debt fund established to provide simple, accessible and efficient funding for renewable energy projects in South Africa, provided funding of approximately $15,1 million (R235 million) to the project whose total project investment is approximately $23,9 million (R370 million).

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Greg Ansermino, FIRST principal fund manager: “The Kruisvallei project is a testament to the Red Rocket team who managed to deliver a successful project during uncertain times and a demonstration of the role and potential, for renewable energy projects in South Africa.”

H1 Holdings, which participates as a 46.5% shareholder via the project company, namely Zevobuzz (RF) (Pty) Ltd, also sees a growth in its portfolio through the completion of this project; making the project an authentic vehicle for empowerment through the power sector in South Africa. Reyburn Hendricks of H1 explained that the project assists in achieving its objective of improving the lives of people using the power sector as an access point.

“We’re excited to participate in this joint venture, where we will see South Africans receive meaningful improvements to their lives from ownership through to economic, social and development initiatives that we will undertake over the next two decades,” said Hendricks.

The Kruisvallei Hydro has committed a percentage of its annual revenues to initiatives in education, housing and sustainable enterprise development initiatives, in areas surrounding, for the life-cycle of the project.