offshore wind
Pic credit: archiexpo.com
Saretec Students and Anne Henschel
Nordex SA managing director, Anne Henschel pictured with the group of SARETEC technician students. Pic credit: Nordex

The South African Renewable Energy Technology Centre (SARETEC) has recently achieved their first 5-month Wind Turbine Service Technician training at its Cape Town facility since the launch in February this year.

The technician students will now commence their 2-month in-service training at various wind farms.

The energy tech centre was developed through a strategic partnership with Nordex South Africa, part of the newly formed Nordex and Acciona Wind power company, where a wind turbine has been donated to the facility as a demo training model.

In addition, the centre has secured partnerships with the Department of Higher Education and Training, the German International Cooperation (GIZ) and Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT).

Through this successful private and public sector partnership, the training facility can equip students with the skills required to operate and maintain wind farms and solar farms, the wind company said in a statement.

Training facility

The formal training is pitched at a National Qualification Framework (NQF) level 5, according to the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) guidelines, which is essentially at the level of artisans, the South African wind subsidiary added.

Adding that the students have studied at technical institutions at an NQF 4 level. The typical intake would include electricians, fitters and turners, motor mechanics or mechatronic artisans.

[quote]Nordex SA managing director, Anne Henschel, commented: “We are four years into a brand new and important industry in South Africa and the major challenge is to develop people with the right skills to carry this industry forward.

“This training centre will significantly boost the creation of jobs.

“The generation of electricity keeps our lives running and facilitates the growth of the country. This is not possible without developing new skills profiles and having good professional education.”

According to the wind turbine manufacturer: “the Department of Higher Education has provided R106 million [$7 million], through the National Skills Fund, in order to get the centre up and running and private sector has contributed with equipment donations amounting to R40m. CPUT has also been a tremendous supporter in terms of providing the land and operational support that SARETEC requires to become sustainable.

Managing director at SARETEC, Naim Rassool added: “The renewables industry requires very specific skills that the current higher educational institutions in the country are not geared towards providing. Government and private sector have put in a massive investment into SARETEC to create those skills and as a country we need to be proud of this initiative to create a world-class renewable energy training facility.”

Challenges of a new facility in a new industry

Rassool added that they are faced with two major challenges: “Our government funding is coming to an end and there is no further funding forthcoming.

“So SARETEC needs to start generating income to become financially sustainable and we are in the process of developing a number of revenue models to accomplish this currently.”

According to Rassool a further challenge is to get the buy-in of multinational Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) that provide the equipment into wind farms and solar farms adding that over the past year the centre has developed strong relationships in this area and long-term training contracts are imminent.

Later this year, the facility will be running its first  training for an OEM being Nordex and it is hoped other OEM’s will follow suit by also providing funding to train South African Wind Turbine Service Technicians.

Henschel said: “[…]This world-class facility presents opportunities to be the gateway renewable energy skills development project for the rest of Africa.”