The Merino Hydro Power Plant was commissioned in 2010. The plant has an installed capacity of 4 MW and operates as a run-of-river station. Annual output is 25GWh. The project consists of a diversion weir, an 800m canal, and a small forebay. The powerhouse is situated mostly below ground level and houses a single double-regulated horizontal axis Kaplan turbine. The plant is connected to the national grid by way of a 22KV line.
The Sol Plaatje and Merino power plants together are owned by Bethlehem Hydro Proprietary Limited, and comprise the first greenfield hydro development in South Africa since the early 1980s, developed by REH Project Development (then NuPlanet).
Bethlehem Hydro generates income by selling electrical power and capacity under a power purchase agreement (PPA) and by selling its reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as Certified Emission Reductions (CERs). The lifespan of both power plants is in excess of 20 years.
The financing of the project was arranged through project finance, with the debt being provided by the Development Bank of Southern Africa and equity investment by the Mertech Group and Hydro Women of South Africa (HydroWSA), a broad based black economic empowerment investment group.
Bethlehem Hydro has won several awards, due to its innovative approach and groundbreaking achievement:
- Green Project of the Year, 2006. Development Bank of Southern Africa
- South Africa Energy Project of the Year, 2008. South African National Energy Agency
- Top 10 best small hydro projects in the world, 2009. International Water Power and Dam Construction
- Best renewable energy project in Africa, 2010. Africa Energy Awards