Matthew Hill & Mariaan Olivier
State power utility Eskom could start building a 100-MW wind power plant, on the West Coast of South Africa, as early as mid-2008, to be operational by the beginning of 2010, a company spokesperson said on Wednesday.
Eskom communications project manager for new build Annamarie Murray said that the firm was expecting a record of decision from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism by the middle of next year, after which construction on the plant, to be built opposite Koekenaap, would start.
The 100-MW plant would have the scope to be enlarged, but she said that Eskom was more likely to first investigate other sites.
Resources and strategy GM Greg Tosen said that Eskom believed South Africa had a resource base of 1 000 MW for wind-power generation along the country’s coastal regions.
It is already operating a much smaller plant than the planned 100-MW operation, but Tosen said that the new one would serve as a pilot project for future projects on the same scale.
Eskom had already built three wind turbines at an experimental wind energy farm at Klipheuwel, on the West Coast near Cape Town.
In July, Eskom called for expressions of interest from wind turbine makers with experience in the design, construction, commissioning and maintenance support of mainstream turbines.
The company was looking for suppliers to supply turbines between 1,5 MW and 2,5 MW. It was understood that it would be mainly foreign suppliers that would be able to supply the turbines.
Eskom embarked on an active programme investigating possible renewable energy options with plans to boost its power generation from these sources to 1 500 MW.
Tosen said that the company’s primary focus was on solar water heating.
The firm was currently involved in a feasibility study on concentrating solar power.
Renewable power generation would mainly be used for peaking power requirements, and coal would clearly be a “dominant force” in Eskom’s future, he said.
It also had plans to generate 20 000 MW from nuclear plants by 2025, as part of plans to double generating capacity to 80 000 MW by the same time.
Environmentalists view wind power as a renewable and clean technology to generate power, but the high cost of generating electricity by using wind technology was still standing in the way of the technology being used on a larger scale.
Murray said that it was, in general, hard to make a direct comparison between the cost of power generated from wind technology, and electricity generated by other renewable energy sources.
“The cost of the various renewable energy options vary according to the available resource and other site specific requirements, such as the distance to electrical infrastructure, roads, etcetera,” she commented.