Some wind energy developers are prepared to foot the bill to connect their projects to the national grid to save time and limit risk.
“Independent power producers and developers are more than willing to pay for the grid. We’d prefer building the grid because we can control the risk and do it in half the time,” said Mainstream Renewable Power business development manager Hein Reyneke, whose company has developed the Jeffreys Bay wind farm in the Eastern Cape.
Various players in the wind energy industry, including investors, developers and government officials, had been discussing the future of the industry at the annual WINDaba in Cape Town.
Companies say the benefits of wind energy, such as creating jobs, training people, cutting carbon emissions and preventing more load-shedding, are significant.
A report by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research showed that wind energy produced net savings of R1.8-billion in the first half of 2015. The amount was calculated through cost savings created by wind energy that replaced what would have been fossil fuel-generated power, as well as through avoiding more load-shedding and mitigating emissions.
While there are constraints, the wind energy industry has been powering ahead in South Africa, as well as in other African countries such as Morocco, Egypt, Ethiopia and Kenya.
Department of Energy renewable energy director Karen Breytenbach says there has been a remarkable sense of collaboration between the wind energy industry and government.
“The Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme has been one of the most successful programmes of its kind in the world. This working together and supporting each other is a great example of how public–private partnerships should work in any sector, whether it be water, electricity or transport.”
Nordex Energy South Africa MD Anne Henschel, meanwhile, noted that the company was keen to build and grow the renewable-energy industry in South Africa.
“Further job creation depends on the capacity and the certainty of the local policy framework and South Africa needs at least a yearly allocation of 1 000 MW to build a sustainable wind industry.”
German wind turbine manufacturer Nordex had created 50 jobs since the inception of the local South African subsidiary in 2012. It was also transferring knowledge through the South African Renewable Technology Academy (Saretec).
The Saretec facility in Belville, is part of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, and is a partnership between the Department of Higher Education and Training, the German International Cooperation and Nordex. Local trainees learn how to understand the functionality of a wind turbine and how to service and maintain it.
Currently, Nordex had installed 97 wind turbines in South Africa, including at the Dorper and Kouga wind farms.
Global market leader, Siemens is also moving rapidly into Africa, with a strong presence in Morocco, Egypt and South Africa. Siemens had reached it initial goal of 1 000 MW in order intake, becoming the market leader in Morocco, where the 300 MW Tarfaya project was under way, reaching the top three in South Africa and building a very strong position in Egypt.
Siemens also supplied and installed 60 Siemens wind turbines for the Jeffreys Bay wind farm in the Eastern Cape which would provide enough clean, renewable energy for 100 000 households, said Siemens Wind Power and Renewables division CEO Markus Tacke.
Other companies which are making inroads in the wind energy industry in Africa include Chinese windpower solution company, Goldwind, which is active in 15 countries across six continents, and Enercon, the German market leader in wind turbines.