Pic credit: Mainstream Renewable Power
Data analysis indicates that the cost of wind and solar generated power is almost on par with base load power. Pic credit: Mainstream Renewable Power

In South Africa, wind and solar power generation closely follows the country’s electricity demand profile, according to a recent preliminary analysis performed by global wind and solar company Mainstream Renewable Power.

This finding indicates that the wind and solar power generates enough power at the time of day when demand is high. According to Mainstream, the second significant finding suggests that when wind and solar power generation is combined the total effect is a significant contribution to base load power.

Mainstream CE Eddie O’Connor commented on these findings: “This initial analysis strongly underpins the South African Government’s commitment to renewable energy; not only are wind and solar power cheaper than new fossil fuel generation here in South Africa but when combined, they can make a very significant contribution to base load power at the time of day it is most needed.

“The analysis also shows something which gives South Africa [a] significant competitive advantage in that the combined wind and solar resources match the average demand profile for electricity.”

He added: “This is significant because the wind blows and the sun shines when electricity is most needed, and this is not something that occurs with such regularity in other global markets.”

Examining the data

Since 2013 the renewable power company has been gathering and analysing data from 18 different wind and solar power generation sites across South Africa to determine the potential generation capacity across the country.

The total generation capacity of the 18 renewable powered sites amounts to 42,000MW of which wind generates 30,000MW and solar 12,000MW.

The preliminary results as captured by Mainstream:

  • The analysed data indicated that the electricity generated from the eighteen wind and solar power generation facilities closely follows the country’s summer, winter and peak day demand profiles for electricity (see graphic below).
  • The predicted electricity generation from the eighteen sites, which have a combined potential capacity of 42,000MWs, results in a significant contribution towards firm, base load power.

O’Connor highlighted that the cost of electricity offered by the most recent renewable energy projects is significantly lower than predicted from Eskom’s future coal plants.

Analysts have indicated that in their analysis of the average bid price for wind projects in the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme:

  • Round one bids were accepted at 115c/kWh
  • Round two came in at 100c/kWh
  • Round three at 74c/kWh
  • Round four dropped to 62c/kWh
  • The same process caused solar power to drop from 275c/kWh in round one to 79c/kWh in round four

The global renewable company said that these figures should be compared to the predicted cost of 128c/kWh for electricity from Eskom’s coal-fired peaking power plant Medupi, which is designed to supply 4,764MW of new generation capacity.

Wind power in the spotlight

On Monday, Johan van den Berg, CEO of the South African Wind Energy Association commented on the abundant wind resources in South Africa. He told media that “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.”

“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”.

Homepage pic credit: Mainstream Renewable Power