South Africa’s government has plans to add 3,725 MW of renewable generation capacity by the end of 2016 and national utility Eskom has committed to 20 year power purchase agreements. These moves have served to provide investor confidence which has been reflected in the more aggressive bid pricing during the second and third rounds of the country’s renewable independent power producer procurement (REIPPP) programme.
At the same time Eskom is working to ensure the strength and reliability of its power grid while adding this renewable capacity. Localisation is a big driver for South Africa’s renewable’s programme, something which the country’s department of energy has emphasised.
As South Africa looks to increase its grid tied solar and wind power generation capacity, the country needs to consider the impact of large amounts of renewable power to the electrical grid, in particular. This takes into account that the intermittent nature of wind power in particular, which can create voltage stability problems between the transmission system and the wind facility.
In response Eskom has reviewed the lessons learned by other countries and regions that have added substantial amounts of power from renewable sources to their grids and it has designed grid code requirements that must be met for renewable power plants to connect to the grid.
The focus now is ensuring that the grid codes are enforced. From the perspective of the renewables industry it is important that modifications to the technical aspects of the grid codes are kept to a minimum. The intermittent nature of wind and solar can wreak havoc on the grid, when the proper dynamic reactive power compensation systems are not in place. By ensuring that grid codes are enforced, Eksom is ensuring the integrity of the power supply to its consumers.
While meeting grid codes can mean marginally higher upfront costs for the owner or developer of renewable energy projects, adopting solutions and technologies based reactive systems will ensure that disruptions to energy from renewable power plants are minimised, which in turn helps to maximise the power plant’s output, leading to increased revenues.
By strictly enforcing and minimising any changes to the grid code, the industry is able to better predict the cost implications to meeting the grid cost. This adds confidence to the financing process and reduces risk.