Wind energy awaits go-ahead
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Cape Town - Wind energy producers are waiting in the wings, ready to produce an extra 1 000MW of wind energy – if the government would give them the nod.
This would be another 350 to 400 wind turbines that could produce around half of Koeberg’s electricity when the wind is blowing strongly.
Johan van den Berg, chief executive of South African Wind Energy Association (Sawea), said on Wednesday because of the relative speed at which wind farms could be built, extra wind power would help the country’s energy crisis.
South Africa’s “wafer-thin reserve margin had finally crumbled” this month when the country had rolling blackouts.
“Our message is simple: Wind energy is already here, and there is plenty more in development waiting to be given the go-ahead with comparatively quick development times.
“South Africa needs more power now and the wind industry is ready to provide that,” Van den Berg said.
When prospective power producers bid to erect wind farms late last year, in the country’s third round of bidding to build renewable energy plants under the government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme, there were more producers than the government could accommodate.
The Department of Energy said at the time because of the high number of bids, it would consider expanding the amount of wind energy and have another round from those bidders who had not been successful. However, this has not happened.
Van den Berg said although Eskom would have to buy electricity produced by wind producers, the cost of building the wind power stations was carried entirely by the private sector.
“To my mind, it is much better to pay for ice cream than to pay for an ice cream factory.”
The cost of wind energy has decreased by 42 percent because of the government’s competitive bidding process.
“In the last round of bidding, wind energy was an average of 74c a kilowatt-hour (kWh) – 30 percent cheaper than the predicted cost of electricity from the new coal-fired plant, Medupi, which has been plagued by delays.
Dipolelo Elford, chairwoman of Sawea, said data from the National Energy Regulator showed that last time the country had load shedding, the cost of unmet electricity demand was 75c/kWh.
“This represents a huge loss to the economy. Dozens of prospective wind farms have permits and approvals in place and could go into construction within six months if government gives the go-ahead today.
“All these wind farms create jobs and have significant impacts on the economy,” Elford said. So far, three wind farms from the first round of bids are already producing electricity: Dassiefontein near Caledon, Hopefield on the West Coast and Van Stadens outside Port Elizabeth, providing a total of 120MW.
The rest are likely to come online in the next few months. Wind farms from round two and three will add another 1 421MW to the grid.
The Department of Energy was not available for comment. - Cape Times