Energy efficiency is becoming a vital factor to reduce carbon emissions and decrease dependency on fossil fuels. Solar and wind energy for small to medium energy demands of consumers or businesses can help reduce pressure on South Africa’s national
power grid. Both, solar and wind power are vastly scalable as there are systems available from less than 1 watt to several megawatts. This makes it possible to initialise the electrification of a home or village with minimal initial capital.
Almost 90% of South Africa’s electricity is generated from coal, with nuclear and hydro providing 5% each and renewable energy just 1%.
The SA government has an “ambitious” investment programme to solve its power deficit which includes two coalfired power stations of 4.8GW each, currently under construction, alongside a higher share of renewables.
There are excellent wind resources concentrated along SA’s coastal regions with good access and reasonable grid connections.
Energy efficient farms in SA
Twelve of the 22 wind power projects awarded to date are in the Eastern Cape. These include the Coega, Jeffreys Bay, Dorper, Amakhala Emoyeni, MetroWind Van Stadens and Grassridge wind farms.
The Nobelsfontein and Red Cap Kouga project are among the six wind power projects found in the Northern Cape. Four wind farms in the Western Cape are in Darling, Klipheuwel, Sere and Hopefield.
About 95% of South Africa’s electricity is currently generated by the stateowned power utility, Eskom. However, there remains a tremendous amount of pressure placed on the grid.
As such, the approval and construction of renewable energy projects – the first phase of governments IPP procurement programme was greatly welcomed. These projects translate into a smarter grid and a more reliable electricity supply.
A few of these projects include the 138MW wind energy plant in Jeffreys Bay, the solar plant in Limpopo, the Soutpan project in Blouberg’s municipal area and 30MW project in Witkop near Polokwane. These projects contribute to the 3,725MW of mandated renewable energy projects to be complete by 2016.
Successful wind power plants
The Jeffreys Bay wind farm situated in the Eastern Cape had earlier this year announced that 10 of its wind turbines were connected to Eskom’s grid, supplying 23MW of power.
“The project’s substation has been energised. This marks the first step towards supplying enough clean, renewable electricity to power more than 114 000 South African homes and avoid over 420 000t of carbon emissions each year,” Jeffreys Bay wind farm GM, Mark Pickering said.
To date, 65% of the 138MW project’s 60 wind turbines have been erected and the final turbine foundation base was completed during the first week of December last year.
According to Pickering, the company also achieved one million lost-time injury-free hours.
“This was a significant target for such a new industry in South Africa and is a major success for one of the country’s largest wind farms, especially considering that the workforce had no experience inthis sector before their first induction a few months ago,” he added.
The 3,700 ha wind farm was being developed as part of the country’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPP). The wind farm is also expected to eliminate more than 300,000 tons of carbon emissions annually.
Port Elizabeth is becoming a windindustry hub, with a deep-water port at Ngqura and the Coega industrial zone, site of DCD’s tower factory. The only other port large enough to handle imported turbines, blades and towers is Saldanha, which serves projects in Western and Northern Cape provinces.
The Department of Energy’s (DoE) Integrated Resource Plan for electricity aim for renewable energy to account for 42% of new electricity capacity by 2030.
Meanwhile, Cape Town-based developer, Umoya Energy recently reported that the 66MW Hopefield wind farm project, which comprises 37 wind turbines, was completed on time. The project began about two years ago and was identified as a preferred project during the DoE’s first REIPPP bid window.
According to Umoya, the farm will generate enough electricity to power about 70 000 low-income homes, or 29,000 medium-income homes.
Following closely behind, Metrowind said in a statement that the Metrowind Van Stadens wind farm reached its commercial operations date in February. The project is owned by the Metrowind Community Trust.
The 27MW wind farm had been supplying electrical power to the regional grid since late November 2013. It plans to sell renewable energy to Eskom for the next 20 years, in accordance with the terms of a power purchase agreement concluded in November 2012.
Wind farm project approved for Kenya
One of the largest wind power projects in Africa was approved last month during an $870 million (R9 billion) financing agreement in Nairobi. The approval came after years of negotiations.
The Lake Turkana Wind Power Project (LTWP), in northern Kenya will provideenergy to the country’s national grid.
The project will benefit Kenya but more specifically, the Turkana area.
A press release issued regarding news of the approval explained that the project would provide jobs, economic development and more importantly, electricity.
The area serves as a stopover for migrant waterfowl and is a breeding ground for the Nile crocodile, hippopotamus and a variety of venomous snakes.
The project site is located in an area between two mountains. A low-level jet stream from the Indian Ocean passes between them to create a constant source of stable, high-speed wind.
More than 52% of electricity in Kenya is currently generated from hydroelectric plants.
“It is our assertion that the project will greatly reduce Kenya’s overreliance on hydropower which plays a crucial role in ensuring the security of electricity supply, but is vulnerable to periodic drought seasons,” said Tshepo Mahloele, CEO of Harith General Partners Ltd, a South African-based fund manager for infrastructure development throughout the continent.
Once complete, the new venture is expected to save the Kenyan government millions of dollars on fuel imports.
The project will be financed through a mixture of equity, mezzanine debt and senior debt.
Below is a list of pros and cons of wind power, according to Mathias Aarre Maehlum of EnergyInformative.org
• Green – Harnessing wind energy does not pollute the environment nearly as much as fossil fuels, coal and nuclear power do because wind energy is a green energy source. Although the manufacturing, transportation and installation of a wind turbine
contribute slightly to global warming, the electricity production itself does not involve any emissions of climate gases whatsoever.
• Enormous potential – Wind power potential is incredible. This is backed up by several independent research teams that reached the same conclusion. The worldwide potential of wind power is more than 400TW (terawatts).
• Unpredictability – Because wind is unpredictable, its availability is inconstant. It is therefore not well suited as a base load energy source. The base load has to be taken up by either fossil fuel or nuclear stations.
• Cost – The costcompetitiveness of wind power is highly debatable. Both utilityscale wind farms and small residential wind
turbines typically rely heavily on financial incentives. This is to give wind power a fair chance in the fierce competition against already wellestablished energy sources such as fossil fuels and coal.
• Noise – This can be a problem for people who live in close proximity of wind turbines. Building wind turbines in urban environments should be avoided.Noise is however not a problem with offshore wind turbines at all. New designs show significant improvements compared to older models and generate less noise.
• Looks – While most people actually like how wind turbines look, there are always some who don`t. Wind turbines leave a smaller footprint on land compared to majority of other energy sources (including solar, nuclear and coal). The problem
is mitigated if the wind turbines are built outside urban areas.
• Threat – Birds, bats and other flying creatures have slim chances of surviving when taking a direct hit from a rotating wind turbine blade. Studies have estimated the number of avian fatalities by wind turbines in the United States ranges from 10,000 to 440,000 annually.
• As the force of wind is not perennial, the base load has to be taken up by either fossil fuel or nuclear stations.