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Tracking wind energy in South Africa

The journey of wind energy in South Africa is an interesting one, from contributing a mere 796,4MW to the currently installed capacity of 2,078MW.

With over 10 projects underway, the story of wind energy is about to get stronger. Here we highlight a few of the farms that have been making headlines.

This article first appeared in ESI Africa Issue 4-2019.
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South Africa’s world-renowned Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) has been the driving force behind the success of this magnificent story. However, it has not been without its fair share of challenges such as a halt instigated by the national power utility Eskom’s reluctance to sign further PPAs with IPPs.

Nonetheless, the story continues as several wind projects are now well underway in REIPPPP bid window round 4. Marked progress was made in April 2018, when the South African government signed long-pending PPAs into effect, which helped independent power producers (IPPs) to announce final investment decisions.

According to research from Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, the firm noted in their Africa wind power market outlook 2019 report, construction activity in South Africa is set to peak at more than 1GW of capacity in 2020 and 2021 as developers race to operationalise projects that were awarded through bidding window 4 in 2015.

In the longer term, the country’s Integrated Resource Plan is expected to target more than 10GW of additional wind power capacity through 2030, while President Cyril Ramaphosa’s proposed reforms for the power sector will create a more favourable environment for renewable energy deployment.

“Africa’s most industrialised economy, South Africa, boasts its largest wind power market, with 2.1GW of operational capacity as of Q1 2019,” noted Sohaib Malik, Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables’ senior analyst.

Malik added: “Issues with governance that took place in 2016 and 2017 were bad news for the local wind market, as no new additions were recorded in 2018.

However, installations are expected to recommence in 2019 with 130MW of new capacity additions on tap, though potential project delays jeopardise that capacity and limit any upside potential for additional capacity. Growth prospects improve thereafter, with more than 1GW of capacity expected in 2020 and 2021 combined. This outlook is supported by ongoing construction activity, peaking in 2020 as IPPs race to achieve commercial operations.”

Improved turbine foundations

Following the trend that started with bid window 3 projects, the 140MW Kangnas and its sister wind farm, the 110MW Perdekraal East, use a 70% replacement of cement design for the foundations. This signals a significant improvement in the concrete mix design for these turbine foundations.

These two large power-generating plants have been receiving their turbine tower sections from GRI, a Spanish wind tower manufacturer. The towers are manufactured locally at the Atlantis-based facility and assembled on site. Concor and Conco Consortium have been appointed as construction contractors, with Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy to supply and install the wind turbines.

Explaining the benefits of the new foundations, Christo Loots, the construction programme manager for the Perdekraal East and Kangnas wind farms, said: “We have achieved a significant improvement in the concrete mix design for these turbine foundations, with the carbon footprint of the concrete mix design being reduced by 32.5% in CO2 from our round 3 projects. For a project the size of Perdekraal East Wind Farm, it means a saving of approximately 1,900 tonnes of CO2 in relation to the previous concrete mix design.”

Kangnas Wind Farm completes foundations ahead of schedule. Source: Kangnas
Wind Farm

Employing innovative tools

Also from bid window round 4, Enel Group through its renewable subsidiary Enel Green Power RSA, has started the construction of its wind energy projects countrywide. These include the 140MW Garob Wind Farm located in the Northern Cape province, and in the Eastern Cape province, the 140MW Oyster Bay and 140MW Nxuba wind farms.

The company boasts that it will employ innovative tools and practices to build these wind farms. Such devices include advanced digital platforms and software solutions to monitor and remotely support site activities and plant commissioning, digital tools to perform quality controls on site and smart tracking of wind turbine components.

These processes and tools are expected to enable swifter, more accurate and reliable data collection, improving the quality of construction and facilitating communication between on-site and offsite teams. In addition, the company has committed to ensure job creation as well as mentoring programmes in the community surrounding the projects.These programmes will provide support services to start-ups in the agro, bio and food technology field.

A South African project developer, G7 Renewable Energies, also indicated that it will start the construction of Roggeveld Wind Farm after having recently reached financial close following the delay in the REIPPPP. The developer had initiated development of the 147MW farm in 2009, for construction in the Karoo on the boundary between the Western and Northern Cape provinces.

Roggeveld, which is scheduled to reach commercial operations in April 2021, will install 47 wind turbines supplied by Nordex Group.

With wind energy contributing 52% of South Africa’s renewable supply and forecast to contribute 59% of renewable power-related emissions reductions over project lifespans, it is irrefutable that the wind industry is a force to be reckoned with in taking the country’s energy mix to greater heights.

Embracing gender equality

Another major breakthrough in the wind industry is affording equal opportunities to both genders in the construction of projects. Through gender equality, women are taking up a number of key roles in the Perdekraal East Wind Farm team.

Aniqah Misbach, an assistant project manager at the wind farm, encourages women to seriously consider construction and especially the renewable energy industry as a career option, as it offers remarkable opportunities.

“Don’t assume that this is only a career option for men; it allows opportunities to travel the country and across our border, as the technology is the same the world over. Plus the renewable energy industry is growing at a fast pace due to countries transitioning away from coal to cleaner wind and solar options,” said Misbach.

From left to right: Aniqah Misbach, Olivia Maduna, Leona Smith, Larechell
Theron and Chandre Kok are taking up key roles in the Perdekraal East Wind
Farm team.

Did you know?

South Africa has a world-first wind atlas – a high-definition map, which shows the best sites for wind energy development. This tool gives short-cut access to data to help identify potential wind farm sites, which can be a timeconsuming exercise.

The map is produced by South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI) and is available here: www.wasaproject.info

Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl
As the Editor of ESI Africa, my passion is on sustainability and placing African countries on the international stage. I take a keen interest in the trends shaping the power & water utility market along with the projects and local innovations making headline news. Watch my short weekly video on our YouTube channel ESIAfricaTV and speak with me on what has your attention.