Kruisvallei Hydropower Project

Helping to power South Africa through a greenfield hydropower project

Zutari undertook the ambitious task of building two run-of-river hydropower plants along the Ash River between the Free State towns of Clarens and Bethlehem. The project will generate approximately 23kWh of energy annually – catering to the energy needs of more than 1916 households.

To deal with the rising demand for reliable and clean energy, Red Rocket, a renewable energy independent power producer, set out to build a unique hydropower project, as part of the South African government’s Renewable Energy Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP).

Having begun the construction of the project in March 2019, with its commercial operation starting in February 2021, Kruisvallei is what is known as a run-on-the-river project. This means there is no damming of the river involved – which in turn means minimising ecological impact.

Red Rocket realised that it needed the right level of expertise and approached Zutari to assist with the final stages, including the review and optimisation of the previous design, energy determination studies, assistance with the drafting of the Employer’s Requirements, assistance with the procurement of contractors, firm costing for the project to reach Financial Close, and eventually commence construction.


The Kruisvallei hydropower project has a long history dating back to 2009. Despite being deemed by some as unviable, even foolish, the project proved successful by all measures.
The Kruisvallei hydropower facility powers close to 2000 homes.

Harnessing Zutari’s technical capability and experience, the detailed design of the project as well as the management of the three construction contracts – through a Construction Manager and Site Engineer – provided much-needed momentum to moving this project ahead. Zutari also undertook all necessary grid code and network compliance studies, witnessed Factory Acceptance Tests of electromechanical equipment, and provided commissioning management.

Luca Silva, Chief Operating Officer of Red Rocket said: “The Kruisvallei hydropower project has a long history dating back to 2009. Despite being deemed by some as unviable, even foolish, the project proved successful by all measures. The project’s success, we believe, can best be ascribed to the perfect combination of the right mindset and key project partners. As Red Rocket, we are extremely proud of this project and the achievements of the Zutari team’s performance with which we were incredibly satisfied.”

A concern with any development (even renewable energy) is the potential negative environmental impact. Zutari worked to design Kruisvallei so that it has the lowest possible impact whilst maximising the output of an important power resource: water.

Built on the Ash River, downstream of the Lesotho Highlands Water Scheme which feeds the Vaal dam along what is essentially canalised agricultural land, the water flow is constant and regulated, and the environmental sensitivities are low.

Most of the water is diverted from the existing Ash River into a canal that leads to electricity-generating turbines, then return the water to the river downstream, while a minimum amount remains in the river at all times to ensure the aquatic ecosystem is sustained. The result is much-needed power supplied to the national grid with little to no negative impact on the environment.

Through Zutari’s involvement in the project, particularly its approach to co-creating engineered impact with three other contractors, the Kruisvallei Hydropower Project will become an important addition to South Africa’s emerging renewable energy market.

This project was recognised  as joint winner in the category ‘Projects with a value between R50-R250 million’ at the CESA AON Awards 2021.

*The Aurecon Africa business has been officially renamed Zutari as at 21 July 2020.  Zutari acquired Aurecon Middle East on 20 November 2020.

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