Offshore wind energy generation, a popular form of renewable energy in many developed countries, might be an answer to the decarbonisation of South Africa energy value chain, delegates at a conference in wind energy heard on Friday. Photo: EPA/MARTIN SCHUTT
Offshore wind energy generation, a popular form of renewable energy in many developed countries, might be an answer to the decarbonisation of South Africa energy value chain, delegates at a conference in wind energy heard on Friday. Photo: EPA/MARTIN SCHUTT

Offshore wind power plants offer vast energy potential for SA

By Edward West Time of article published Oct 11, 2021

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OFFSHORE wind energy generation, a popular form of renewable energy in many developed countries, might be an answer to the decarbonisation of South Africa energy value chain, delegates at a conference in wind energy heard on Friday.

South Africa is one of many nations that signed a commitment to reducing carbon emissions, COP21, which requires it to cut carbon emissions by over 40 percent by 2025, and the Department of Environmental Affairs believes renewable energy is the most feasible means to achieve this.

Recent research on offshore wind energy by the Department of Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering, by Stellenbosch University academics Gordon Rae and Dr Gareth Erfort, identified six suitable regions for the development of offshore wind infrastructure; and indicated that deep water turbines, could satisfy the country's annual electricity demand eight times over.

“The wind market in South Africa is focused on onshore wind, because we have the land space available and it's cost competitive. Although we don't think we will see the first offshore development in the country until 2030, it is certainly an area worth investigating, said Sawea (SA Wind Energy Association) chairperson Mercia Grimbeek in a statement.

“Good wind sites will be taken up during the next decade as we build 14.4 gigawatt of wind power, and this is a good prompt for investigation into offshore wind to begin now. We have seen an increased focus from academia on this topic and as an industry we support it and look forward to the outcomes,” she said.

Laura Peinke, Senior International Trade Specialist – Energy (South Africa), for Scottish Development International, said at the 2021 Windaba Conference last week that South Africa's coastline needed to be recognised as a valuable energy resource, but it also needed to balance environmental and marine protection.

“The development of offshore wind could only be viable with all parties, including the government, environmental bodies, industry bodies such as Sawea and the Global Wind Energy Council, and university and research institutions to name a few,” said Peinke,

In global markets, especially the UK and European countries, offshore wind was a preferred and often only option, due to land ownership structures and a lack of viable onshore land options, among other reasons.

“I think offshore wind is one of the renewable sources that South Africa could include as part of a diversified energy mix but acknowledge that it is not a simple process given South Africa doesn't have an existing focus for offshore wind,” said Peinke.

“Up to now, a lot of the research has been speculative. Options for deep-water requirements are floating wind turbines, but a more comprehensive assessment on the meteorological and oceanographic conditions ocean comparing specific technologies will be necessary.”

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