Following recent confirmation by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) that South Africa had increased its installed wind-energy capacity to above 1 GW in 2015, the South African Wind Energy Association (Sawea) has highlighted that more than 3 GW of wind capacity has already been allocated through the government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer’s Programme (REIPPPP), with yet more to be procured in the coming months.
Sawea CEO Johan van den Berg says that, while wind energy is still a relatively new industry, the pace of the South African expansion has been “extraordinary”, growing from 10 MW to 3 300 MW over a period of only four years.
“In 2011 there were just 10 turbines in the country – now we have 13 large wind farms in operation, consisting of over 495 turbines, with many more under construction,” Van den Berg enthuses.
The GWEC figures show that South Africa has also emerged as the largest wind-energy base in Africa, followed by Morocco, whose installed capacity stood at 787 MW in 2015. The global body reports that South Africa installed 483 MW in 2015, helping to raise the overall installed capacity of the Africa and Middle East region to nearly 3 300 MW.
Sawea says the 1 GW of operational wind energy includes 649.25 MW procured under REIPPPP round one, 329.68 MW procured in round two, Eskom’s 100 MW Sere wind farm and the Darling (1.3 MW) and Coega (1.8 MW) facilities.
Under the REIPPPP, through which a total of 6 300 MW of renewable-energy capacity has been procured since 2011, prices for wind have also fallen significantly, from R142c/kWh in the first bid window in 2011, to 65c/kWh in the fourth bid window.
Van den Berg says the wind roll-out is also having community spin-offs, with R91-billion having been committed to development initiatives.
“The rapid increase in government’s renewables ambitions reflects not just the proven success of the programme but the economic reality that wind has become a no-brainer. It is four to six times quicker to construct than conventional energy and infinitely safer. It’s modular and can better use existing grid capacity. It’s all built with private money and saves government billions for the new build programme,” he asserts.
Meanwhile, the R1.9-billion Noupoort wind farm, in the Northern Cape, has announced that the power plant is now connected to the Eskom grid and that commissioning of wind turbines has commenced.
“We energised the substation on 12 February and the first turbines on 23 February, marking a pivotal point in the construction of the wind farm as we begin the process of testing,” project manager Martina Flanagan reports.
The project is a round-three REIPPPP development and construction is scheduled for completion by mid-2016, when Noupoort is expected to start supplying electricity to the national grid.
Construction is said to be progressing smoothly with over half of the project’s 35 wind turbines having already been erected.