In these days of conservation and environmental sensitivity, industrial development is often seen as a dirty word. Industry is seen as an ogre, gobbling up precious land and resources and polluting the little remaining clean air and water that we have. However we are dependent on industry for jobs, products and a flourishing economy that supports our existing infrastructure. Piloting models of clean technology for industrial development seems to be a vital task and is currently in full swing at Saldanha Bay on South Africa’s west coast.
The municipality of Saldanha with its natural deep water port has long been a centre of a flourishing steel industry. Now it is seeking to diversify and ensure the future of its economy with ambitious plans for green development. The proposed Industrial development is at the centre of these plans. Currently awaiting approval, the new IDZ focuses on sustainable back-of-port development, including a huge renewable energy generation project combining solar, wind and syngas that will enable potential businesses establishing themselves here continuous access to affordable power, a major incentive in times of soaring electricity tariffs and insecure supplies.
While renewable energy is not yet in a position to replace conventional energy in most countries, due to it still being more expensive to produce and hard to store, having renewable energy as a supplementary source of power certainly makes an attractive incentive for businesses. Over time as conventional energy prices rise, renewable energy prices are likelier to fall or at least remain stable. As technology improves, renewable energy is likely to play a vital role in supplementing and eventually taking over from conventional energy, especially in places where wind and sun are in abundant supply.
Another advantage of using renewable energy is the reduction of a company’s carbon footprint. With many more businesses having to offset carbon emissions and demonstrate an environmentally responsible stance to consumers, the availability of renewable energy sources will make a major difference.
While Saldanha Bay isn’t unique in its pioneering of renewable energy for Industrial Development Zones it is certainly looking at the whole development in a uniquely integrated and sustainable way: including a de-salination plant in its plan to provide water for the industrial zone, planning a zero-emissions smelter for the proposed rare metals refinery plant and even proposing a large housing project to support the new industrial development. This will provide homes for 6000 low to middle-income families and will be built on sustainable green building principles, with solar heaters and coolers, LED street lights and so on.
If one small industrial town in South Africa can make clean technology a realistic way forward, then there is certainly hope that renewable energy and sustainable development can be the future of Industrial development zones all over the world.