South Africa harnesses power of the wind


29 February 2016

Over 1 gigawatt (GW) of power from wind energy is already feeding much-needed electricity into the country’s grid, according to the South African Wind Energy Association (Sawea). This figure equates to the supply of 511 000 household’s average energy consumption, it says.

This calculation is based on household consumption of 6.000 kiloWatt hours per year, supplied by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and an average capacity factor of 35% from the wind turbines. Sawea points out that this is a conservative figure as many turbines are performing closer to 40% plus.

There is much more to come, promises Johan van den Berg, Sawea’s chief executive. “Wind energy is still a relatively new industry in South Africa and what we have achieved in such a short time is a sure indication of how much more we can do,” he says.

“In 2011, there were just 10 turbines in the country; now we have 13 large wind farms in operation, consisting of over 495 turbines, with many more under construction. More than 3GW of wind energy has already been allocated through the government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPPP) – and more is due to be announced shortly.”

As well as supplying non-polluting sustainable energy to the country, the REIPPPP criteria ensure that developers of renewable energy projects allocate funds to the sustainable development of nearby communities, according to the association. So far, R91.1-billion (about $6-billion) has been committed to development initiatives through the programme. This number will increase as more projects are procured. Dates and allocations for bid Window 5 of the REIPPPP are due to be announced by the government imminently.

Sawea adds that as water shortages continue to plague the country, it’s important to know that renewable energy saves water: for each kilowatt hour of renewable energy that displaces fossil fuels in the national grid, 1.2 litres of water will be saved. At full operation of the entire portfolio, the programme will save 52 million litres of water each year, equal to 371 428 standard sized bathtubs.

This year’s theme for Sawea’s annual conference, Windaba, is “Towards 100% Renewables” and Van den Berg believes this is a realistic 2050 ambition. “In South Africa we have abundant natural resources – sun and wind – for renewables to thrive. Wind power is now about 40% cheaper than new coal power produced by Eskom,” he says.

“The extraordinary growth in procured capacity from 10MW to 3300MW has taken place in just four years. The rapid increase in (the) government’s renewables ambitions reflects not just the proven success of the programme but the economic reality that wind has become a no-brainer. It is four to six times quicker to construct than conventional energy and infinitely safer. It’s modular and can better use existing grid capacity. It’s all built with private money and saves (the) government billions for the new build programme.”

According to the association, one gigawatt of operational wind energy can be broken down as follows:

  • 649.25MW procured under REIPPPP Round 1
  • 329.68MW procured under Round 2 (further round 2 projects are still under construction)
  • 100MW Eskom’s Sere Wind Farm
  • 1.3MW Darling
  • 1.8MW Coega Industrial Development Zone

In its November 2015 fact sheet, the association says there are 13 fully operational windfarm developments feeding 953MW into the national grid. There are now more than 400 wind turbines creating electricity throughout South Africa.

The price of wind energy in Round 4(a) of the REIPPPP was R619/MWh, almost 40% cheaper than forecast prices for Eskom’s new build coal plants, Medupi and Kusile.

The Department of Energy has committed to 13 225MW of renewable energy generation by 2025. This will be secured under the REIPPPP, which has been running since 2011 and has already completed four successful bidding rounds.

Sawea is gearing up for Windaba, the official wind industry event it hosts in partnership with the Global Wind Energy Council. The annual conference and exhibition will take place in November 2016, at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

Source: South African Wind Energy Association