20,000MW is an achievable goal for renewable energy generation in South Africa.
“Almost everybody has agreed we can build a wind sector in excess of 20,000MW and then it depends. You can pick a number somewhat or way above that,” says Johan van den Berg, CEO of the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA), in an interview with News24.
In South Africa, wind resources are in abundance and the industry is capitalising on wind power technology.
“Twenty thousand megawatts is a big windy industry and from there, anything above that, we will see where it goes. That equates to maybe 7,000 towers and turbines ultimately, considering that the towers are getting stronger and more powerful all the time.”
Van den Berg said that 2011 was the year government formally introduced wind power technology into the energy sector, with commercial wind farm construction commencing in 2013.
He added that wind power contributes an estimated 740MW of electricity into the grid “as a proportion of about 45GW of all power installed in South Africa”.
The South African department of energy launched the South Africa Wind Energy Programme (SAWEP) which commenced the first phase in 2008.
“The objective of SAWEP is to install and operate 5.2MW of electricity generated from the Darling Wind Farm National Demonstration Programme and further prepare the development of an additional 45MW of wind power from Independent Power Producers”, the department said.
The wind power project is funded by the Global Environmental Fund and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme. Some of the activities are supported by the Danish Government through the Royal Danish Embassy.
Land mapping of wind resources in the country indicated a U shape from the south, starting 350km to 400km north and west of Cape Town, running down the South African coastline and close to the Transkei, van den Berg said.
The second phase of the project, which includes wind mapping of the rest of the country, has now been approved van den Berg stated.
Wind power a shorter reality
Van den berg claims that wind power has a shorter construction time compared to fossil and nuclear power generation.
“We are generally building 130MW/140MW — 60 large turbines — and that normally takes about 18 months, which is still the blink of an eye compared to fossil fuel or nuclear power plants, that take 10 to 15 years.”
Wind measurements are performed onsite with wind masts testing the environment and capturing data for one to two years.
Van den Berg said: “An international expert then comes and guarantees you a specific output if you use a specific machine with a specific blade, and you know exactly what you are going to get.”
Investing in affected community
Under the National Development Plan’s developmental state and public/private partnership, South African wind power producers are responsible for injecting a certain percentage of their profits back into the communities which are impacted by the wind farm.
“The relationship between ourselves and Government’s IPP (independent power producers’) office is an early successful example of that.
“That’s actually starting to work. A lot of people in other industries got this wrong, but I think we are mostly getting it right”, van den Berg stated.
“I think the way in which the programme was structured, where you have to invest around 2% of your turnover into those communities, was a very far sighted move.
“I probably spend close to half my time on that aspect, to make sure everybody is coordinated and pulling in the right direction”, Van den Berg said.
Sere wind farm
In earlier news, state-owned power utility Eskom’s Sere wind farm, located near Vredendal in the Western Cape, reached full commercial operational capacity of 100MW at the end of March.
In addition to the wind farm having all 46 wind turbines in full operation, Eskom confirmed that the construction of the new Skaapvlei substation as well as a 44-kilometer 132kV distribution line has also reached completion.
The wind farm’s first turbine was erected in December 2013. Once seven turbines were erected and operational in October 2014, the farm began to synchronise the wind turbines to the national electricity grid where it has since contributed 90 GWhrs of power to the grid.
Although Sere has been completely energised and feeding power to the grid since December 30, 2014, the first quarter of 2015 was used to ensure that the milestone of commercial operation is achieved.