Independent energy company ENERTRAG South Africa, which acquired the iconic 5.2 MW Darling wind farm in mid-October, has confirmed that it intends studying the feasibility of expanding the Western Cape facility.
The wind farm was South Africa’s first-ever renewable-energy independent power producer (IPP) and its establishment has been attributed largely to the determined efforts of Hermann Oelsner, the pioneering first CEO of Darling Wind Power.
Darling Wind Power entered into commercial operation on May 1, 2008, and has power purchase agreements with the City of Cape Town and South African renewable-energy trader PowerX.
The project was initially built with funding support from the Danish government and the Development Bank of Southern Africa. However, Clean Energy Africa Investments purchased the power plant in 2016 and subsequently sold it to ENERTRAG for an undisclosed fee, following a bidding process.
The wind farm comprises four 1.3 MW Fuhrländer FL1250 horizontal-axis turbines, which are considered older-generation turbines.
Wind technology has improved materially in both scale and efficiency since the early 2000s, with some of the newer individual turbines introduced as a result of South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) having capacities of greater than 2.5 MW.
To date, South Africa has procured 3 366 MW of wind-energy capacity and the country’s largest wind farms have nameplates of above 130 MW.
ENERTRAG South Africa business operations director Stephen Koopman tells Engineering News Online that the company is not daunted by either the age of the turbines or the modest size of Darling Wind Power, noting that the company has extensive experience in servicing and operating small facilities in Europe that incorporate older technologies.
Although Fuhrländer turbines are no longer in production, ENERTRAG has 33 such turbines in its fleet of more than 400, which are spread across Germany and France.
“This positions us ideally to manage and operate the Darling turbines as our team has intimate knowledge of the Fuhrländer turbines and this will be applied to improve performance of the farm,” Koopman says.
He is also confident that its engineers are well positioned to address some of the operational challenges that have affected the facility in the past.
Besides improving production, the company is also keen to assess expansion prospects and is already reviewing its environmental permits and licence conditions in an effort to understand the potential that exists for further expansion.
In parallel, a study will also be initiated to assess the feasibility of adding a fifth, modern turbine, to the site, which would effectively double the wind farm’s capacity.
“The wind resource is good enough and there are changes under way in the electricity industry, which could provide new opportunities for sale of electricity to municipalities, traders, or private offtakers,” Koopman says.
However, he also stresses that the immediate intention behind the acquisition was not the expansion of the Darling wind farm, but rather to gain hands-on operational experience in the South Africa renewable-energy market, which ENERTRAG views as having significant growth potential.
Besides Darling Wind Power, the German company’s South African project pipeline has been expanded through an agreement with Genesis Eco-Energy Developments for the development of up to 1 800 MW of wind energy capacity in the country.
Koopman reports that ENERTRAG South Africa should be in a position to participate in at least one project submission when the next REIPPPP bidding round is advertised.
Energy Minister Jeff Radebe has indicated previously that documentation for bid window five should be released before the end of 2018.