South African hydro developer NuPlanet has been awarded an exclusive generation licence for the 5MW Mtirikwi hydro power plant in Zimbabwe. The site is located at the wall of the Mtirkiwi Dam (formerly Lake Kyle), the largest reservoir in Zimbabwe.

NuPlanet is one of South Africa’s foremost developers of greenfield hydropower, having successfully completed the 3MW Sol Plaatje plant in 2009 and the 4MW Merino plant in 2010. These plants, owned by Bethlehem Hydro, were the first new hydro power plants to be constructed in South Africa since the 1980’s, and have received numerous awards including: ’South Africa energy project of the year 2008’ from the South African National Energy Agency. In addition NuPlanet will start construction in 2011 on three further projects in South Africa with a combined capacity of 11MW.

“We are very pleased to have been rewarded the Mtirikwi generation licence by the Zimbabwe Energy Regulation Council. The Mtirikwi project has been on the cards for some time, but only recently did the Zimbabwean government decide to open up the development opportunities for the private sector,” said Anton-Louis Olivier, Managing Director of NuPlanet. “In hydropower projects one needs to take a long term investment view and we are comfortable that our decision to invest in Zimbabwe will prove sound and profitable”.

According to Olivier, NuPlanet is currently developing a pipeline of some 300MW of hydro power potential across southern Africa. “In Zimbabwe, we partnered with MOL Power, a Zimbabwean developer. This partnership enabled a NuPlanet to have a smooth entry into the Zimbabwean power sector.”

For Mtirikwi NuPlanet plans an eight-month technical feasibility and environmental impact assessment phase starting in 2011 before moving to financial closure, procurement, contracting and construction. Initial estimates point to commissioning by late 2012.