Wind farms the answer to load shedding problems

By on March 24, 2014

As South Africa’s wafer-thin reserve margin finally crumbled to usher in a new round of load shedding; irate consumers were again left in the dark in more than one way.

Given this bleak situation, the imminent commissioning of more than 600 MW of wind power could not come at a better time.

These wind farms were procured under the government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP), all built with private money, all built on time (in less than 18 months) and will provide electricity at about 65 times less than the cost of not having electricity. The energy produced will be able to supply tens of thousands of South African households.

Load shedding costs the economy

Dipolelo Elford, Chair of the South African Wind Energy Association, explains, “Data from the National Energy Regulator shows that the last time when we had load shedding, the cost of the unmet electricity demand was R75 per kilowatt/hour. This represents a huge loss to the economy. Growth is suppressed to the detriment of us all.”

Wind power coming into the grid already with more due very soon will ease the electricity crunch. Moreover, we as the wind industry are able to build much more than we’re presently doing, rapidly. Dozens of prospective wind farms have all permits and approvals in place and could go into construction within six months. All these wind farms create jobs and have very significant positive impacts on the economy.

The first utility scale wind farms developed have begun exporting electricity to the grid, making wind energy’s contribution to the nation’s electricity needs a firm reality. Three of the wind farms – the Van Stadens wind farm outside Port Elizabeth, the Klipheuwel Dassiefontien wind farm near Caledon and the Hopefield wind farm on the West Coast – are now online providing 120MWs of capacity.

A fourth wind farm, Jeffery’s Bay (138MW) which has not yet reached full commercial operation came to Eskom’s rescue last week when supply was critical. “Eskom lifted a temporary curtailment on the Jeffrey’s Bay wind farm in order to allow increased supply to the grid. We were happy to oblige and maximised production to help Eskom through its crisis,” Explains Mark Pickering, General Manager of the wind farm, which will supply the equivalent of over 100 000 homes once fully exporting to the grid.

The other Round 1 wind energy projects are expected to reach commercial operation in the next few months. The wind farms already being developed in Round 2 and 3 will add another 1421MW to the grid.

Reliable and sustainable

“Wind energy is a proven, reliable technology globally and South Africa’s first large commercial scale wind farms are now up and running, providing power to the grid. Our overloaded electricity system needs more electricity production urgently and wind turbines can provide that – fast and relatively cheaply,” says South Africa Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) CEO Johan van den Berg.

“Due to the competitive nature of the REIPPPP bidding rounds, the price of wind energy has decreased by 42 percent and is predicted to be 30 percent cheaper than the cost of new coal at Medupi. Round 3 was hugely oversubscribed, demonstrating that there are more private investors and developers just waiting to build more wind farms,” he concludes.

The Megacities Africa Conference & Exhibition, to be hosted on 11 and 12 June 2014 at Gallagher Estate in Johannesburg, is the continent’s premium forum that addresses the key issues surrounding rapid urbanisation throughout our continent. The urbanisation conference will address key strategic and technical challenges being faced by rapidly growing metropolitan areas across Africa, and help form solutions through strategic partnerships.

The event will feature live technical demonstrations and workshops, focus sessions on power, water, sanitation, finance, telecoms, ITC, green urban development, revenue protection, transport and infrastructure. Social issues such as human settlements and security will also be discussed

For more information, contact Conference Co-ordinator Yusuf Seedat at 086 000 9590 or email yusuf.seedat@topco.co.za.

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